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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

"SEASONS IN THE RAVINE" by P. J. Laska--Book Review

Laska, P. J. 2017 Seasons In The Ravine A Suite Of Poems (Bedford, NH Igneus Press)

On February 25, 2017, I made my usual trip to the mail box expecting to find my usual nondescript collection of junk mail and bills to find a small manila envelope with the Arizona return address of my long time friend and mentor, P. J. Laska.  Naturally, my assumption was that it would be a book or pamphlet of some kind and I knew it would be both interesting and pertinent to these times and my life.  When I opened the package, my sense of surprise was raised to even higher levels.  It contained a copy of "Seasons In The Ravine A Suite Of Poems" which I had not known was due for release.  I immediately sent Laska a message of thanks and began fitting the book into my heavy pile of current reading, most of which is politically motivated these days.  I figured I deserved a break from my recent fare and began reading the book, as I do all poetry, in short sessions with only a few poems at a time to improve my retention, appreciation, and understanding of the material.  The book contains a suite of 22 poems (actually 20 interconnected poems and 2 addenda based on the Dao De Jing and other Oriental poetry and philosophy).  The poems were written more than a decade ago when Laska was still living in Beckley, WV, where I first met him in 1974 just after he became a finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry.  His home in Beckley was located on a residential street which placed it directly behind Jimmy's Place, a small bar and Beckley institution for more than fifty years.  Laska's lot was on a steep hillside which placed his front door at street level and the lot immediately plummeted to the little stream far below which divided his property from that of Jimmy's Place.  His house was composed to two stories and a basement which was earth sheltered on the street side and open to the sun on the ravine side.  The peak of the roof must have been more than forty feet from the ground.  This description does not seem to bode well for a place to live but it was perfect for a Buddhist poet.  The lot dropped off from the street to the stream and was shaded by numerous tall trees.  The stream usually ran water most of the year and, combined with the trees, it made a wonderful habitat for birds, small game, and stray cats.  Laska built a small gazebo like hut just above the high water line and used it for meditation and writing.  It was an ideal situation except for the persistent possibility that one might break a neck descending from the street to the hut.  The ravine and the trees also served to profoundly baffle the traffic noise from the major thoroughfare on which Jimmy's Place sits.  

In that environment, Laska wrote the poems contained in "Seasons In The Ravine...".  He has told me that he was working to capture the flow of the seasons in that secluded spot in which he spent most of his time in those days.  The poems begin in spring and end in winter.  They are woven from cloth made of trees, birds, Buddhism, stray cats, and solitude.  They are excellent poetry and I have told Laska himself they contain some of the finest writing I have seen from him in years.  They prove that a committed man can find peace and solitude within earshot of a popular West Virginia watering hole.  They prove that an observant person can learn much about life and the world while seeking solitude.  They reflect Laska's long interest in Chinese poetry and the Dao. They are well worth reading but if you want to own a copy you need to contact Igneus Press sometime soon.  It is a limited edition.  If you do not obtain a copy very soon, you will find it only in selected libraries and personal collections.  I will not loan my copy.  

My personal favorites among the poems, which are numbered and untitled, are #4, #12, #13, and #16.  Those poems are woven together to tell stories about a poet, a long dead baby, a one-eyed tomcat, and life.  In #4, we find the poet:
"Reaching in with gloved hand, he rubbed

the name and date of a child that died before
           the age of one."

Then the poet allows the seasons to flow with their myriad gifts until we find him in #12 climbing out of the ravine toward home accompanied by a one-eyed tomcat whom he has named Marco Polo.

         "The abbot admired the one-eyed wanderer
          living his last season in retirement, and fed
          him from the bag he kept behind the door."

In #12, the poet (for many years Laska has been "the abbot" in his poetry) has bonded with a wandering one-eyed tomcat.  In my personal experience, many of the poets I have known and loved best  have been a great deal like wandering tomcats finding love, poems, and a life somewhere along an unscheduled and unpredictable road.  The sharing of food, whether with a new human friend or a wandering tomcat, is always a major step forward in a relationship, especially in the hills of Appalachia and Raleigh County. Poem #12 also shows us a deepening of the relationship between a tomcat and a poet who are both enjoying those shady days near the end of an unpredictable road in a quiet ravine where peace, understanding, and friendship are possible. 

 In #13, we find Marco Polo " wandering the silk road..." and we learn that "...It's because the small is great that hawks and owls know that the mice will continue to thrive."  Such poetry, such observation of the natural world, and such melding of that natural world into one's understanding of the human world is a great deal of what separates great poets like Laska from ordinary men who only admire the hawks, owls, and tomcats from a distance. 

Poem #16 brings us to "the frozen wanderer stiff as a board" after a snowy night and

the abbot took him to the lot of the empty house
across the stream, where he stumbled on the child's headstone. R.I.P for Marco.
a certain fate, an oracle of bones.
If you don't find him on the hill,
look in the ravine. In time
their skeletons may intertwine
and stay still while the land works
its changes..."

It is writing like that which separates poets from transcribers.  It is observation of nature like that which separates naturalists from hikers.  It is that kind of melding with one's environment which might one day  save the planet.  I would strongly suggest that you contact Igneus Press and purchase your copy of the limited edition of "Seasons In The Ravine A Suite Of Poems" by P. J. Laska.  And to repeat myself, I will not loan my copy.  Thank you, Pete! 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

1984 by George Orwell--A Textbook For These Times

Orwell, George: 1984 (Delhi, India, Pigeon Books 2009)

Recently, "1984" by George Orwell shot back to the top of the Amazon Bestseller List based on the illegitimate inauguration of the TRAITOR Donald Trump and his occupation of the White House. Please note when I refer to his occupation of the White House I always use the word in the military sense.  Since November 8, 2016, I have been diligently reading all the literature I have time to cover which addresses misfeasance and malfeasance in office, treason, totalitarian governments, the US Constitution and civil rights.  "1984" has been a classic ever since it was released in 1948.  It is a masterpiece of fiction about a futuristic, totalitarian government and was a part of that body of Orwell's work to which he referred when he said: 
"Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written directly, or indirectly, against totalitarianism.  Animal Farm was the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one artistic whole." George Orwell, "Animal Farm" pp. vii

George Orwell

"1984" is an excellent example of that effort on Orwell's part to fuse both political and artistic purposes.  The book made him famous worldwide and its Orwellian language Newspeak has introduced several words into everyday usage such as "newspeak", "Big Brother", "doublethink", and "thought crime".  The book is taught worldwide in classes on politics, literature, philosophy, and psychology.  There is no more important time that American citizens should be reading "1984" and other works by George Orwell such as "Animal Farm" than today. The book is fiction but it is fiction with a political purpose.  It can be easily read and understood by the person who does not ordinarily read philosophy or political science.  By virtue of reading the works of George Orwell, that type of reader can begin to understand the importance of observing the actions of government and its leaders and also begin to develop skills necessary to resist destructive, disruptive, and totalitarian actions of government.  

The book is set in a fictitious, futuristic 1984 in a totalitarian government which controls literally every function of the lives of its citizens, restructures their reality on a daily basis to fit the needs of the government, and literally wipes those citizens off the face of the earth, without a trace remaining, when they no longer meet the needs or oppose the actions of that government.  The protagonist of the book is an ordinary citizen, Winston Smith, who works in the Ministry of Truth where his job is to rewrite history, both small and large, in order to meet the aims of the government.  Winston finds himself involved in an affair with a young woman much like himself.  Their love affair and joint opposition to the government lead them into the dark world of the government and its actions to control the citizenry.  

The book is now and always has been a harbinger of possible and probable tyrannies to come in the real world.  It is a billboard of truth, writ large and boldly, warning the citizens of the United States of today that such tyranny is possible and is the goal of people who are living today.  The goal of every American citizen should be to prevent such tyranny from every happening or becoming possible in this country.  We are teetering on the brink of the most destructive times in American history.  A malignant, malicious, and well organized effort, centered in the White House is working on a daily basis to deprive this country of freedom of the press and individual constitutional freedoms.  Media members have been arrested while doing their job of covering multiple news stories which were contrary to the aims of TRAITOR Trump and his minions.  Religious believers are being targeted, arrested, and deported simply because they are not members of a majority religion in this country.  More crimes against the US Constitution will come and they will come soon.  Every citizen of this country should be working to prevent the possibility of such destruction of individual and collective freedoms.  Go out and read books such as "1984" and "Fahrenheit 451".  Study the US Constitution and fight to defend it.  Learn about outspoken defenders of freedom such as Thomas Paine, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and other, more modern patriots who spoke out for freedom and Constitutional Rights.  Join organizations such as The American Civil Liberties Union.  Financially support organizations such as National Public Radio, The Southern Poverty Law Center, and others which fight on a daily basis to protect the rights of ordinary citizens and work to keep the citizenry informed in an honest, ethical fashion. 

The link below is to a blog post on this blog about "Animal Farm" another of George Orwell's excellent books about totalitarian governments.


"...the sure way to destroy freedom of speech and the free expression of ideas and views is to attach to that freedom the penalty of abuse and vilification...It is only from a diversity of views freely expressed and strongly advocated that sound policy is distilled. He who contributes to the destruction of this process is either a fool or an enemy of his country." Owen Lattimore in Senate testimony before the McCarthy Committee in 1950.

The quote above was delivered by Owen Lattimore during his testimony before a US Senate committee after he was labeled by the late Senator Joseph McCarthy as the number one communist operative in the federal government at the beginning of McCarthy's Communist Witch Hunt.  Although Lattimore had never been employed in the government, he had, at times, been a consultant since he was recognized as the leading expert on China in the world.  Lattimore was eventually indicted by a federal grand jury and eventually had all his charges dismissed as baseless.  He went on to write what is considered to be the best first person book about the McCarthy disaster, "Ordeal By Slander".  For several years, Lattimore teetered on the edge of having his life and career destroyed by McCarthy as actually happened to many other patriotic and innocent Americans.  Lattimore's quote above fits just as well today for TRAITOR Donald Trump as it originally fit Joseph McCarthy.  

On January 21, 2017, at CIA Headquarters, in a speech which has been negatively reviewed by nearly every writer who has said a word about it, TRAITOR Trump stated "As you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth." Never has any legitimate occupant of the White House, not even Richard Nixon, taken the bizarre step of declaring a war with the legitimate press of the country.  Let me state for the record that I do not now, nor do I ever expect to, consider the TRAITOR Donald Trump to be a legitimate occupant of the White House, With the assistance and under the direction of Russian President Vladimir Putin, he illegally seized an American election.  Now he is engaged in a plan to destroy constitutional freedoms which is based on Adolph Hitler's seizure of total power in Germany.  His "war with the media" is a key part of that plan and is being carried out on a daily basis by both TRAITOR Trump and his criminal minions.  

At least six members of the media were arrested on felony rioting charges during the Women's March On Washington as the first salvo in this felonious effort to restrict constitutional rights to a free press.  All these journalists were doing their job at the time they were arrested. They were covering the biggest news story of the day.  It was a story which had the power to negatively affect public perception of TRAITOR Trump and that is the primary reason for their arrest.  The other reason was to intimidate all other legitimate members of the media and prevent them from doing their job by bringing the truth to the American public on a daily basis.  

At least seven journalists have been arrested during their coverage of the Dakota Pipeline Protest on the Standing Rock Reservation.  Their arrests have also been perpetrated for the same reasons, to prevent their doing their jobs and to further intimidate the other members of the media community nationwide.  Once again, these arrests are part of a structured plan to destroy constitutional freedoms as originally carried out by Adolph Hitler in Germany.  

"When Adolf Hitler took power in 1933, the Nazis controlled less than three percent of Germany’s 4,700 papers.
The elimination of the German multi-party political system not only brought about the demise of hundreds of newspapers produced by outlawed political parties; it also allowed the state to seize the printing plants and equipment of the Communist and Social Democratic Parties, which were often turned over directly to the Nazi Party. In the following months, the Nazis established control or exerted influence over independent press organs." The Holocaust Encyclopedia. Downloaded February 26, 2017, at 4:49pm
I do not necessarily believe that TRAITOR Trump will attempt to literally seize control of all the organs of the media, primarily because very few people are working and assisting TRAITOR Trump who would be capable of competently running a newspaper.  But I do not doubt that he would  be willing to seize organs of the press if he believed the American citizenry would allow it.  He has a well established record of denying access to otherwise public events to members of the media which insist on telling the truth in their reporting.  As early as June 14, 2016, CNN Media reported a list of media organs which had been denied access to TRAITOR Trump's events over the previous year.  Just two days ago, on February 24, 2017, the Washington Post and several other media outlets were denied access to what was billed as an open press conference.  TRAITOR Trump has also announced in the same time frame that he will not attend the White House Correspondents Association Dinner as every legitimate president has for the past thirty or more years. He is obviously unwilling to face interactions with members of the press he has abused and denied access over the past several months. He also does not wish to be questioned about his failure to release his taxes, his inability to assemble an honest and qualified cabinet, and he unconstitutional attacks on Muslims and immigrants.
The US Constitution states that " Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." These actions by TRAITOR Trump which attempt to prevent the legitimate media from doing their constitutionally guaranteed job are part of a structured plan to deny, impair, and obstruct all the freedoms listed in the Bill of Rights.  The so-called Muslim Ban, which has been declared unconstitutional by several federal district courts and is highly likely to be considered unconstitutional by the Supreme Court even in its newly reconfigured text which is alleged to now remove Iraq from the list of seven countries in what appears to be an attempt to look less discriminatory.  

George W. Bush, the last Republican to legitimately be elected President, spoke out in an interview on February 27, 2017, in words that addressed TRAITOR Trump's recent actions without naming and directly confronting him as Mr. Bush should have.  

“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy,” Bush said. “We need an independent media to hold people like me to account.  Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive and it's important for the media to call to account people who abuse power, whether it be here or elsewhere,” he added. Bush noted that during his presidency, he sought to persuade people like Russian President Vladimir Putin to respect a free press." Washington Post February 27, 2017--Downloaded on March 1, 2017, at 1:52pm.
Former President Bush should be thanked for speaking out which is an uncommon act for former presidents during the early days of a new administration.  But he actually said far less than he should have and failed to directly name TRAITOR Trump.  It is now time for all the former living presidents to jointly and publicly stand up and speak from their collective bully pulpit to address these attacks against civil liberties and freedom of the press coming from the illegitimate administration in the White House.   As Bush said, "Power can be very addictive" and a megalomaniac such as TRAITOR Trump is the worst person on earth to be imbued with power.  He is mentally unstable and unfit to successfully manage even relatively innocuous levels of power.  With the help of Vladimir Putin, he has managed to seize a great deal of power and his misuse of it can only increase over time if he is not confronted and held responsible for his crimes, past, present, and future.  Just as Professor Owen Lattimore said in 1950, "...he is a fool or an enemy of his country".  I would declare that he is both.  

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Two Peas In A Pod

Ever since November 8, 2016, I have been steadily and voraciously reading a wide variety of literature on several subjects including the US Constitution, the electoral process, international relations, the US Presidency, and the US Supreme Court.  I have been reading in the areas of political philosophy, history, and biography.  Rarely, if ever, in my reading do I find myself speechless but I did a day or two ago as I began a new book, a biography of one of the most reprehensible figures in American history.  The following excerpt from that book is the opening description of that figure: 
"...(He) was a pirate, and one does not, one cannot, pass valid moral judgments upon pirates.  This is meant in no facetious or superficial sense.  The close similarity between (his) character, mentality, and motives and the basic patterns of piracy is clear.  The distinction which sets the freebooter apart from the violent revolutionary, for example, or from the man who wages a war for some purpose other than plunder, appears in (him), the essence of this distinction being that the pirate is not amenable to moral laws because he recognizes none.  By the very act of becoming a pirate he has forced the moral code, which is binding on other men, to walk the plank.  A man cannot be held morally answerable to laws of which he is not cognizant; hence the pirate, entertaining no scruples whatsoever, is freed of their encumbrance....Whether we are aware of the fact or not, we do not pass moral judgments upon pirates...because intuitively we grasp that their ways and standards of conduct lie outside the confines of conventional morality...Moral conformity is not the pirate's concern. For him, rapine is no more morally reprehensible than is preaching to a parson or lending money at interest to a banker.  We may, if we are strong enough, hold the pirate sternly accountable under statute law; we may even stretch his neck; but morally he will not be answerable to us." Lately Thomas, "When Even Angels Wept" pp 1-2
Without a doubt, many of you are wondering who on earth that description could have been intended to describe.  Some of you might have already rushed to Google to learn the subject of Lately Thomas' biography "When Even Angels Wept".  The book is an excellent biography of the late, greatly despised US Senator Joseph McCarthy.  I am currently reading the book because it is a part of my study and research regimen to learn as much as possible about failures and deliberate miscarriages of justice in government, by government officials, and in defiance of the majority of the governed.  This project is motivated by my deep seated, well founded, and universally justified fear of the damage being perpetrated to American Democracy by the TRAITOR Donald Trump and his well chosen band of criminals.  At the time I began reading Mr. Thomas' book, I had no idea that his description of Senator McCarthy would so aptly describe the TRAITOR Donald Trump.  As I opened the book and began reading the introduction, my mouth literally dropped open as those first two pages, written more than forty years ago, gave a very apt description of the TRAITOR Donald Trump today.  Those paragraphs, with only the minor change of inserting and bracketing the words, "he", "him', or "his" in place of the name of the greatly reviled Joseph McCarthy who caused and led the horrible Communist Witch Hunt of 1954, serve just as well to describe the current, illegitimate occupier of the White House.  

It is interesting that during some shallow research on Lately Thomas and his work I found one review of the book by Louis Berg which takes great offense to Mr. Thomas' decision to state that we cannot hold pirates morally responsible for their actions because pirates do not accept or comply with moral standards.  However, I agree with Mr. Thomas' assessment that we cannot expect to hold pirates morally responsible but we can successfully, "...hold them responsible under statute law".  And I submit that is exactly what the country and the people must do with the TRAITOR Donald Trump.  Just as Mr. Thomas wrote about Joseph McCarthy, the TRAITOR Donald Trump "is not cognizant" of morals or laws.  We are now in the grips of an illegitimate occupation of the White House by a group who either do not understand, do not respect, or willfully disregard the United States Constitution, have no respect for the Bill of Rights or the federal courts, and are willing to abuse the rights of any person or group of persons in the country in order to gain the things they wish to have.  Rapine is not morally reprehensible to the TRAITOR Donald Trump and the gang of criminals he has surrounded himself with after having been illegally installed in the White House by Vladimir Putin and his computer hackers.  

On February 24, 2017, two native born United States citizens, the widow and son of former Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali were unreasonably detained at an airport upon returning to the country because ICE agents did not like the sound of their names even though the son, whose name is Muhammad Ali, Jr., had one of the most famous and well publicized names in the world.  Interestingly, the ICE agents released the widow Ali after she presented a photograph of herself with her late husband which is absolutely no legal proof of any level of innocence if she had actually been a terrorist attempting to enter the country on malicious plans.  We now have federal government agents, at the behest of an illegitimately constituted administration, detaining natural born citizens because they don't like the sound of their names and releasing people they have initially implied might be terrorists based simply on a photograph of their victim with a famous person.  

During the recent Women's March On Washington on January 21, 2017, six legitimate journalists covering the top news story of the day were arrested  and charged with felony rioting in an obvious attempt to intimidate all journalists who might be covering other events held to express the well justified ire of the nation with the TRAITOR Trump.  That effort to intimidate and control the media is continuing at a maddening pace by the TRAITOR Donald Trump and his minions.  Journalists have also been arrested and shot with rubber bullets at Standing Rock in North Dakota.  Those journalists have also been charged with fictitious felonies while covering the top news story of the day.  On January 23, 2017, the White House criminals in charge denied many of the major news organizations in the country admission to a rigged "press conference" by the TRAITOR Trump.   These acts are repressive, unconstitutional restriction of a free press, and a blatant attempt to control the news cycles to prevent accurate and honest reporting of the crimes and incompetence of TRAITOR Trump and his minions.  

The United States Constitution is under a daily attack by the occupiers of the White House.  Individual freedoms, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion are all under attack by a Right Wing Radical criminal and his flunkies.  At this point, we are only a little more than a month past the illegitimate inauguration and I have no doubt far worse is coming.  Indictment, prosecution, conviction, impeachment, and imprisonment are the only acts which can legally put a stop to this terrorism which is being practiced on Pennsylvania Avenue.  At this point, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and the Republican party are unwilling to act because they hope to destroy as much social, environmental, and health care legislation as possible before ever admitting that a criminal and terrorist has been allowed to occupy the White House.  Every citizen should be standing up, speaking up, and speaking out to protect the country, the Constitution, and all our individual and collective rights.  Call your congress members and senators.  Insist that they take action immediately to begin the impeachment, prosecution, and imprisonment process for the TRAITOR Donald Trump.   

Friday, February 17, 2017

"A Nation Defiant Polish Resistance To The German Occupation Of Poland" by Richard S. Fuegner--Book Review

Fuegner, Richard S.: A Nation Defiant Polish Resistance To The German Occupation Of Poland (Edina, MN, Beaver's Pond Press, 2014)

Ever since November 8, 2016, I have been steadily reading every piece of literature I can find in all formats (books, pamphlets, electronic media) which I am led to believe can be useful in the American Resistance against the illegitimate administration which is in control of the White House.  I found Richard S. Fuegner's book in a general Internet search, ordered it, and read it quickly between reading the works of George Orwell and other writers on the subjects of totalitarian, dystopian, and repressive governments and methods to resist such governments.  It is my considered professional opinion based on my education, training, and experience that the United States is being turned into a highly repressive regime in compliance with TRAITOR Donald Trump's perverted world view.  No nation in Europe did a better job than Poland of resisting Adolph Hitler and the Russians during World War II.  We have a great deal to learn from the actions of the Polish people during World War II.  Richard S. Fuegner is an expert on the subjects of both Polish and general European Resistance during that war.  He has published several books about World War II Resistance.  

"A Nation Defiant..." is an extremely well researched, well documented, and well written work.  Mr. Fuegner has studied this general topic for many years and his massive research effort shows all through the book.  The book does an excellent job of documenting the Nazi and Russian invasions of the country, the wide ranging acts of repression and savagery which the Polish people suffered, and their determined and tireless resistance to those invasions.  The country was jointly and simultaneously occupied by both Russia and Germany and the two armies consensually divided the country choosing to seize those areas nearest their own borders.  They took every action possible to repress, oppress, and abuse the citizens of Poland.  Murder, infanticide, torture, and imprisonment with little or no cause was common by both occupiers with Germany sometimes taking slightly more violent actions against citizens.  But the Polish people, right down to relatively young children, fought valiantly and ceaselessly to impede German and Russian operations all across Poland.  This book does an excellent job of telling the story of the Polish Resistance all the way from the initial Nazi invasion to the Warsaw Uprising and eventual liberation.  It tell the story of how both Russia and the United States betrayed the Polish people by not assisting them adequately or expeditiously during the Warsaw Uprising.  The Poles were led to believe they would be assisted with supply drops, an advancement of the Russian front, and bombing raids by both countries.  These actions were not carried out at all or only in a limited way because both Russia and the United States were more concerned with their own tactical and territorial goals and thousands of brave Polish fighters were murdered by the Germans during the sixty-six days of the Warsaw Uprising.  It is a powerful story and an even more important warning sign for any country such as the United States today which is under an ever increasing attempt to create a totalitarian state by the TRAITOR Donald Trump who, interestingly enough, appears to be colluding with Russian in his efforts.  When mass roundups and deportations of relatively innocuous, harmless, and productive people are being staged daily, when multiple journalist in multiple incidents are being arrested for doing their job and covering public discontent, when threats are being made daily against the peace and dignity of the country by illegitimate occupiers of the Whiter House, it is the most important mission in the country to educate yourself and as many others as possible about all and any means by which American citizens can protect American Democracy and this book will help you to do that. 

My one criticism of the book is that is was published by a small vanity press in Minnesota, Beaver's Pond Press, and the editing was not up to par.  The book is a slick presentation with a nice cover, good printing, and acceptable illustrations which are numerous.  But it is also loaded with many typographical errors, missing words, and other linguistic mistakes which a good editor would have corrected.  The author, Richard S. Fuegner, is now 81 years old and the book was published three years ago in 2014, when he was 79.  It is possible that at his advanced age Mr. Fuegner chose to use a vanity press rather than risk becoming disabled or dying before a traditional, major publisher could be found to publish the book.  If so, that is a shame.  Mr. Fuegner had a previous record of multiple published books and this book deserved a better publisher.   But don't let the errors stop you from reading the book.  It really is a masterful piece of research, organization, documentation, and writing.  It is well worth the time and the money necessary to order and read it.  It will teach you a great deal about what happened in Poland and what could happen in the next four years in America. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Watching "Loving" On Valentines Day

Richard and Mildred Loving Photo by Find A Grave

On Valentines Day 2017, my wife Candice and I watched the movie "Loving" in a theater.  This movie has had one nomination for Ruth Negga for the Oscar for Best Actress In A Leading Role which was the only Oscar nomination for the movie.  The film has been quietly and persistently well reviewed and has been moderately successful in the theaters.  But it ranks barely in the top 75 money grossing movies of the year at this point and is likely to fall lower as the year goes on and more mass market money machines hit the big screen.  But earnings or Oscar nominations were not the motivation for our attendance.  The story the movie tells is why we went and why every Appalachian and American movie buff ought to see this movie. You should also see this movie even if you hate movies but care about human rights. "Loving" tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple in Virginia, who married in 1958 in violation of the miscegenation law in Virginia at that time.  They actually had to travel to Washington, DC, in order to get the ceremony performed.  Shortly after their marriage, they were arrested in Caroline County Virginia and eventually took a plea agreement by which they were sentenced to one year each in prison which was suspended and they had to agree to leave the state of Virginia and not to return together for  twenty-five years.  In compliance with the sentencing agreement, they left Virginia and moved to Washington, DC, for several years.

With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Loving couple eventually appealed the conviction in 1967 to the Supreme Court of Virginia and ultimately to the United States Supreme Court where their appeal was upheld and the miscegenation laws of at least seventeen states were overturned.  It was one of the most historic decisions delivered by one of the most active and productive incarnations of the court. At that time, William O. Douglas, Abe Fortas, Byron White, and Potter Stewart were all members of the court and, during their tenure together, became one of the most effective liberal voting blocks in the history of the court. The Loving decision made interracial marriage legal in the entire United States.  The Loving Decision will always be one of the most important decisions in the history of the court and the United States.  I was sixteen years old at the time and a senior in high school but I do not actively remember it.  I was raised, as I have mentioned many times on this blog, in an area of Knott County Kentucky which was totally white.  I did not attend school with an African American until I began Upward Bound the summer after my sophomore year in high school which was 1966.  But I had heard often in my childhood of one church in the Indian Bottom Association Of Old Regular Baptists which was integrated long before I was born.  That church was the Little Home Church which had been founded by African American members of the Old Regular Baptists and had always been integrated.  It was located on the opposite side of the county and my family never attended there.  That part of the county was the home of nearly every African American in the county at that time.  Residents of the two sides of the county rarely mixed unless work required it. 

Later, as an adult in about 1973, I was taken by Don West to a church in Matoaka, WV, which had been integrated for many years and had two ministers, one black and one white. About that same time, I also made a trip to Washington, DC, with West Virginia poet and professor Robert F. "Bob" Snyder where we stayed in the home of an interracial couple who had married and lived in the District of Columbia at about the same time the Loving couple lived there. From March 1989 to July 1992, I worked for a company which had a very high percentage of interracial marriages among the employees and came to know a fairly large number of such couples who had all individually and collectively faced the kinds of prejudice which the Loving couple faced in Virginia.  Unless you have lived in such a marriage, you cannot know what kinds of pressures, prejudices, and discrimination these people faced.  I do not pretend to know even though I probably have more experience in this area than most average Appalachian Caucasian males in my age range. It is also impossible for anyone who was not present in the extended families of Richard and Mildred Loving to have any idea of the courage required for them to appeal their case to the US Supreme Court and face the publicity, both positive and prejudicial, which they received as a result.

The movie is presented as much as a love story as it is as a historical or political story. The acting and the cinematography are both deliberately low key and the acting is both powerful and understated. The tensions of the time are seen in the faces and body language of the actors more so than in voice volume, timbre, or inflection.  It is a beautiful powerful piece of work on the part of everyone involved.  It is well worth seeing and I recommend it highly. I also would like to remind my readers of just how many earth shattering legal cases the ACLU has been involved in since their creation in 1920.  This organization is the most important guardian of civil and human rights in America.  At this time, they are under attack from the radical right and need your help morally, socially, and financially more than at any time in their history with the one possible exception being during the McCarthy Communist Witch Hunt during the 1950's.  Join the ACLU, make a donation, support them publicly and privately.  They have been protecting you since before you were born.  In today's political environment, you, your family, your ethnicity, your social group could become the next victim of a Right Wing Radical attack. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Jenny Wiley State Park Is Hosting A Hate Group

Today, I was appalled to read Internet news from WKYT-TV27 in Lexington, KY, and learn that Jenny Wiley State Park in Prestonsburg, KY, will be hosting a meeting of the Traditionalist Workers Party, a hate group as defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, AL.  I also confirmed the accuracy of the story by watching the evening news on WKYT-TV27  and by calling the park office to protest the fact that a state park would be hosting a meeting of a hate group.  When I contacted the park office in Prestonsburg, I was told that staff there could not comment on the issue and was given the name and telephone number of Gil Lawson, the information officer and official spokesperson for the KY State Parks in Frankfort, KY.  When I called Mr. Lawson, he would only read the official statement which the parks department had prepared and which is included in the Internet news story from WKYT-TV27.  Here are the contents of that statement: 
""The executed contract for this event was for a family reunion, and the parks department was not notified of the intent of this meeting until late last evening. As a public event, a different contract will be required. The new contract will include safety and other provisions, and the group will have to reapply under the correct process. As a public agency, the Kentucky State Parks cannot discriminate against individuals or groups under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, we will continue to monitor the situation and any threats to our guests, and we will take appropriate actions as necessary." Official Statement From The KY State Parks System Downloaded on February 8, 2017, at 8:40pm.
Upon hearing the statement on the telephone, my response to Mr. Lawson was that he was "talking out of both sides of his mouth".  We both graciously allowed the conversation to end on that note.  My logic for that assessment is based on these facts as stated in the statement.  The parks system is attempting to imply, but not clearly state, that they were mislead when negotiating the contract and they may well have been mislead.  At the same time, the parks system is stating they have no intentions to attempt to do the right thing by voiding the contract and refusing to host the event.  The parks system is also attempting to claim they have no legal means by which to refuse to host such a group.  The portion of the statement which says "we will continue to monitor the situation and any threats to our guests, and we will take appropriate actions as necessary".  By virtue of that sentence, they are admitting that possible threats to their guests do exist.  

The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Traditionalist Workers Party as:
"...a white nationalist group that advocates for racially pure nations and communities and blames Jews for many of the world’s problems. Even as it claims to oppose racism, saying every race deserves its own lands and culture, the group is intimately allied with neo-Nazi and other hardline racist organizations that espouse unvarnished white supremacist views." Southern Poverty Law Center Downloaded on February 8, 2017, at 8:51pm.
For those of you who do not know the Southern Poverty Law Center, they were founded by Morris Dees, one of the most successful civil rights attorneys in the history of the country, and are located in Montgomery, AL.  They track, confront, and litigate against hate groups all over the country and do a phenomenal job of gaining, protecting, and preserving human rights all over America.  The bottom line is that if the SPLC tells you a group is a hate group you can bet your boots on their assessment.  The Traditionalist Workers Party is described in their own literature as being strongly anti-Semitic and homophobic although they attempt to couch those beliefs in language which can avoid the possibility of constituting hate crimes on its face.  At the same time, they attempt to disguise their supremacist views behind stated intentions of "fighting for faith, family, and folk".  However, it is interesting that on their official website they list their philosophical literature on a web page they have named "Propaganda".  According to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary Eleventh Edition, the definition of "Propaganda" is: "information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a cause or political view".  It is fascinating that such a group would use a word to describe their teaching which means "...biased or misleading...". 

In their statement about the goals of the event which is linked from the WKYT-TV27 web site, the Traditionalist Workers Party makes several statements that cause concern.  They state that: " Pike County is 98.35% European and went over 80% for Trump in the recent elections."  It is fascinating that an organization that SPLC has identified as a hate group is choosing to visit and hold a meeting in an area which supported Donald Trump who has always denied his support from and possible connections to such white supremacist hate groups.  They go on to say that Pike County is an area that is "in need of advocacy and organization".  They also gloat that " Given that the venue is a State Park, they cannot shut down the event".  That statement, and the likely fear of state park officials, is probably why the official statement from the KY State Parks is so unwilling to confront the fact that they have agreed to host an event from a hate group.  The TWP go further near the end of their statement by discussing possible "...possible Leftist attacks, we will not be driven from the streets, under any circumstances" which appears to state that they are prepared for violence during their street demonstration in Pikeville on April 29th, 2017.  

Every citizen, every elected official, every church, every legitimate social organization in the Eastern Kentucky and Southern West Virginia area should immediately and unequivocally denounce this group, their proposed event, and their potentially violent agenda.  Every member of such churches, groups, and organizations should immediately contact Gil Lawson and the Kentucky State Parks to protest this event and to demand that it be cancelled.  Potential violence, which is openly discussed in that statement and that is alarming and potentially very dangerous.  Such plans, such groups, and such threats of violence must be confronted and must be stopped.