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Friday, July 21, 2017

A Higher Call By Adam Makos with Larry Alexander--Book Review

Adam Makos with Larry Alexander 2012 A Higher Call ( New York, Penguin Random House)

After seeing some television publicity for this book, I decided to read it even though I have never read a lot of WWII literature.  This book is not a classic but it is well worth the time to read.  The book will hold your interest and keep you turning pages until the end.  But it has many of the typical drawbacks of a book written with a ghost writer.  The book tells the story of what might have been the most unusual encounter between German and American military personnel during WWII.  In some ways, the story is reminiscent of the famous Christmas Truce of WWI in which British and German troops instituted a temporary cease fire on Christmas Day 1914 across trenches. "A Higher Call" tells the story of an encounter between Charles Brown, an Appalachian West Virginia farm boy turned bomber pilot, and Franz Stigler, a German Messerschmitt pilot and full fledged aerial ace over the skies of Germany near the end of WWII.  

Brown and his crew were on their first bombing run flying in the rear position of a squadron of bombers.  That position in a squadron was always assigned to the newest crew because it gave them a chance to watch ahead to see what the other pilots were doing.  But it was also the first place in a squadron that German fighter pilots attacked since they usually made their first approach from above and behind.  In the fire fight, Brown's plane was literally riddled with German fire and according to every person who saw the plane it was literally on the verge of being unable to stay airborne.  Franz Stigler was not in the initial group of planes that attacked the squadron.  Somehow, Brown and his co-pilot were able to keep the bomber aloft after the firefight ended and peeled off to try to return to their base in England.  Stigler got airborne and was searching for planes that might be stragglers or wounded.  He spotted Brown's bomber and made an initial approach to shoot it down which would have given him his last necessary kill to receive the Iron Cross, Germany's most coveted military award for fighter pilots.  

But as Stigler approached the bomber for his customary close in kill, he realized that it was deeply, gravely damaged.  The rear of the plane was nearly destroyed.  The tail gunner was dead, hanging in his safety harness. The rear turret was nearly blown off the airplane. Only one gun on the plane was in working order.  Several of the crew were wounded.  The rear stabilizers were damaged beyond what would be considered remotely safe to fly even in a straight line. The plane was perforated by machine gun fire from end to end. Stigler was a devout Catholic and had been trained by a man who was also highly honorable and had told Stigler long before that if he "ever saw him shoot down a pilot hanging in his parachute, I will kill you myself".  Stigler realized that Brown's plane was attempting to return to its base in England and would need to fly over a coastal antiaircraft battery which would surely finish the plane and its crew.  He flew alongside the plane and tried to signal with his hands, since Brown also had no useful radio, to tell Brown to change his route to avoid the flak zone.  Brown did not understand and kept flying toward the coast. In desperation, Stigler fell into place near the plane hoping the antiaircraft gunners would believe he was simply allowing the wounded plane to get over open water before he shot it down.  The gunners fell for the bait.  Stigler flew alongside Brown until he was safely over open water on his way to England, saluted Brown, and peeled off to return to his base.

Stigler knew that if the story ever made into the German military command, he would be summarily executed for dereliction of duty.  Stigler never told a soul until many years later when he had successfully immigrated to Canada.  Brown and his crew made it back to England and reported the truth of what happened and were nominated for medals by their commanding officer.  But the US and Allied command immediately put a gag order on the episode and declared it Top Secret.  The crew got no medals.  Many years later, when he was an aircraft manufacturing executive in Florida, Brown advertised in German language WWII newspapers to try to find the pilot who had saved his crew.  He left out several key details of the incident in his letters to the papers and eventually Stigler heard of the effort by Brown, learned who Brown was, and contacted him.  Both men had been deeply affected by the incident and eventually became life long friends, often referring to each other as brothers.  They made speaking engagements together, talked on the phone on nearly a daily basis, and shared a deep, almost spiritual relationship.

Despite any deficiencies the book has due to the ghost writer, it does a wonderful job of describing the incident and the effect it had on Stigler and Brown.  It focuses almost entirely on the war career of Stigler with little emphasis on the war career of Brown.  It also says as little as possible about the relationship between the two after their reunion.  In these respects, the book is deeply deficient.  But the book also does a good job of telling the story of how many Germans were deeply opposed to Hitler and the Nazis while remaining deeply committed to their country.  There were many people, even in the German military, who knew how horrible Hitler and the Nazis were, how terrible their efforts to annihilate the Jews and other minorities were, and how devastating the Nazi actions were to the German character, reputation, and morale. Every one of those people placed their very lives in danger by holding such views.  There was a real resistance in Germany during WWII and the heroes and heroines of that resistance deserve to have their stories told. 

After WWII ended, Franz Stigler found himself ostracized in Germany because the German people believed that the fighter pilots had failed Germany by not protecting them from the Allied bombing which led to the end of the war.  As a former fighter pilot, Stigler found it nearly impossible to get any kind of job even down to the most menial of labor.  He chose to emigrate to Canada and it turned out to be the best thing he could have done.  He prospered in Canada and even owned a fully restored Messerschmitt fighter plane which he used to act as the "bad guy" at air shows all over North America traveling and flying with the very men he had fought against in the war.  The story of Stigler and Brown is a story that deserves to be told, deserves to be read, and deserves to be repeated by others who are forced into enmity by unjust governments.  Buy the book!  Read it!  Come to understand that not all Germans were evil during WWII. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sins I Will Never Need To Confess

As I watch the slow drip, drip, drip of horrible and treasonous information about the crimes committed before, during, and after the 2016 Presidential Election, I am incredibly thankful that I was always committed to only one candidate, the best candidate, the correct candidate, the one candidate who should be President right now, Hillary Clinton.  I have known dozens of people, some intelligent, some less so, and all gullible and misled who supported the treasonous campaign of the worst traitor the world has ever known, the TRAITOR Trump.  Amazingly, most of those people I knew who supported this career criminal still do to one degree or another.  Many of them still believe, and God only knows how, that he is actually qualified to hold public office.  Many of them still deny his guilt in the worst crime ever committed in the United States, the theft of a presidential election in cooperation with the president of our greatest enemy in the world, Russia.  The level of their denial, gullibility, and naivete is overwhelming.  I also know others who still support the TRAITOR Trump simply because he expresses, approves, and disseminates the prejudices they hold themselves.  But the bottom line is that, as the investigation process goes forward to its only logical conclusions, impeachment and imprisonment of TRAITOR Trump, these hold out supporters will, some day, be held responsible for whatever part, be it small, they played in his rise to the heights of criminal success.  A time will come when even these people have to admit they were wrong and confess to the crimes, sins, misdeeds, and acts of abysmal ignorance they committed in order to support this Russian Owned Criminal Syndicate.  

I will never have to admit to or confess any such crimes except one.  Temporarily, for a short time, I held to the belief that TRAITOR Trump was simply an idiot, an ignoramus, a buffoon who could never be taken seriously by any measurable portion of the American electorate.  I deeply regret that I ever held that belief.  I deeply regret that I was not focused on TRAITOR Trump, the most dangerous element in the presidential race of 2016, and focused my writing, opposition, and public scorn on others far less dangerous than TRAITOR Trump, such as Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and  Ben Carson, and Marco Rubio.  However, let me state clearly long before the election of 2020 that those on that list of names are also far too dangerous to ever be allowed anywhere near the White House.  I have no idea how much I could have done with my writing, speaking, and conversations to prevent the theft of the election of 2016 if I had spoken up sooner.  But if I could have changed one mind and one vote more than I did, it is deeply regrettable. 

But let's get to that list of sins in the title of this blog piece, that list of sins I will never need to confess.

  1. I will never need to confess that I ever supported the TRAITOR Trump in any way, form, or fashion.
  2. I will never have to confess that I have ever believed for even one second that the TRAITOR Trump is capable of holding any public office.
  3. I will never be required to confess that I failed to speak out against the TRAITOR Trump in any situation.  Thank God, I have always had the courage to tell anyone he is a criminal, a traitor, and an idiot.
  4. I will never need to confess that I have believed any of the lies perpetrated by the TRAITOR Trump and his Russian Owned Criminal Syndicate.
  5. I will never be required to admit that I ever doubted TRAITOR Trump's collusion with Vladimir Putin in the theft of the Presidential Election of 2016. 
  6. I will never need to admit that I ever used any term in reference to the TRAITOR Trump that could be interpreted, misinterpreted, construed, or misconstrued to mean or imply that I thought he was the President of The United States.  He is a criminal TRAITOR, nothing more, nothing less, His temporary occupancy in the White House is the greatest criminal act ever perpetrated against the United States Of America. 
  7.  I will absolutely never be required to confess that I believed, for even one minute, that TRAITOR Trump in any way represented the legitimate concerns and interests of American Christians.   I am proud to state that I have avoided any degree of culpability in the seizure of the White House by Russian interests. 
I would strongly implore that if you are one of those misled, naive souls who fell prey to the lies of TRAITOR Trump that you screw up your courage and honestly confess your sins and begin to work for the restoration of democracy to the federal government by the indictment, conviction, impeachment, and imprisonment of TRAITOR Trump and all his allies both in the White House and elsewhere.   Confess your sins, if you ever got suckered into supporting TRAITOR Trump, do your penance, join The Resistance, and fight to see TRAITOR Trump and his entire Russian Owned Criminal Syndicate punished for their ever growing list of treasonous crimes.  

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Ode To The Outdoor Toilet

Outdoor Toilet Photo By Bucharest Life

A recent exchange between my cousin, Jack D. Terry, and I led me to do some rumination about outdoor toilets in general and about one in particular.  Jack, myself, my half-sister Barbara, and three of Jack's siblings all spent several years of our lives living in a combination house and store on Steele's Creek near Wayland, KY, in Floyd County where over several years our fathers both operated a country store.  My father, Ballard Hicks, bought the property sometime in the early 1940's after his first wife, Ora Wicker Hicks, became ill with an undetermined and fatal illness.  Daddy bought the store and left the coal mines at Wayland in order to be able to care for his seriously ill wife.  He operated a store there for about fifteen years until he built a new combination store and house at Dema, KY further up Beaver Creek in Knott County.  I was born at Lackey Hospital while my parents, Ballard Hicks, and his second wife, my mother, Mellie Hicks, were living in the building on Steele's Creek.  We continued to live there until I was about six years old and moved to Knott County in the summer of 1957 just as I was due to enter school at Salisbury Elementary. My half-sister, Barbara, lived there from the time our mother married my father which was nearly the entire time he operated the store on Steele's Creek.  On the same day we moved up Beaver Creek from Steele's Creek, Jack's parents, Corbett and Ellen Hicks Terry, and their children moved into the house and store on Steele's Creek.  They also operated a store there for several years and partially raised five children in the building.  

Outdoor Toilet Photo By Scary For Kids

The property on Steele's Creek was a markedly small lot jammed between the highway and a cliff at the back of the house.  When Jack, his brother Johnny, and I were old enough to run around at night, we could actually slip up the cliff, step over onto the roof of the lean-to kitchen and climb in their upstairs bedroom window in order to avoid waking their parents whose bedroom included the entrance to the stairs.  The lot was nearly as narrow as it was shallow.  A hand dug well not more than thirty feet deep provided water for us all the entire time we lived in the house.  It did go dry in drought years. The well had been dug just off the edge of the porch which could be accessed from the family living quarters by either the living room or the kitchen.  To draw water, you just stepped out the kitchen door, stood on the porch, and drew water straight from the well without leaving the dry porch and its roof.  On the opposite side of the building, accessed directly off the store's feed room via a door cut in the exterior wall of the building was the one hole outdoor toilet. The feed room in a country store was used to store items like livestock feed, tools, fertilizer, and other items too large to place on display shelves. There was no exterior door to the toilet and you literally stepped out of the feed room into the toilet which was no more than fifty feet maximum from the well and probably about ten feet deep.  By today's health standards, that setup would be considered a health disaster just waiting to happen.  Yet four adults and seven children in our extended family spent years living in that house and none of us ever had a serious sick day in our lives.  The building is long gone and I have no photographs of it to add to this blog post.  I surely wish I did.  Corbett, Ellen, and their five children spent several years in the building until Corbett received his Social Security and Black Lung and bought a small farm and house further up Steele's Creek near the mouth of Hammer Tight Hollow.  I have marveled many times that none of us ever got sick in that situation.  I have no idea how many other people lived in that building before my father bought it. After Corbett and Ellen moved out, it was abandoned until it fell down from neglect.

Outdoor Toilet Photo By Video Blocks

When we moved to Knott County and Corbett and Ellen's family moved to Hammer Tight we all finally got indoor plumbing.  But I entered grade school at Salisbury Elementary that same summer we moved and my school had two outdoor toilets and a drilled well in a set up very similar to the one we had on Steele's Creek.  Each of the toilets was a two hole situation, located about thirty or forty feet apart near the upstream left rear corner of the school. One was for boys and the other for girls. The drilled well, which had a hand pump was located about ten feet from the right side of the school on the down stream side of the building.  This was also a situation, by today's health standards, that was a disaster in the making.  But there were apparently no state or federal regulations which required indoor plumbing, running water, actual bath rooms, or any significant distance between school toilets and wells.  Once again, hundreds of children attended Salisbury Elementary for probably forty or fifty years and no one ever exhibited any kind of serious illness which could blamed on the toilets and the well.  In today's world, either of those situations in the store or the school would be illegal and stopped the first time a passing health inspector became aware of them.  

In the 1950's and 1960's when I was growing up, most of my neighbors had outdoor toilets in Knott County.  I am certain that in most of the entire region of Central and Southern Appalachia in those days that the majority of citizens were using outdoor toilets.  I can remember seeing many toilets built on the sides of hills near houses, yards, and gardens with the structure hanging over the edge of a hill without even a toilet hole or pit dug beneath them.  Raw human waste would just drop, drip, and slide down the hill into the weeds and woods. There were also other such toilets which were literally built hanging over a creek bank with human waste falling directly into the running stream which usually had people fishing no more than a few miles down stream.  Fancier set situations, in some cases, had two hole toilets, deep pits beneath them, clearly downstream from all homes, gardens, yards, and play areas and relatively far away from creeks.  But they were rare in that time and health problems seemed rare to intermittent at most.  I don't recall ever knowing anyone who became seriously ill due to a disease which was known to be caused by human waste contamination.  

We have actually progressed in Kentucky today to the point that we have a state law which prevents public utilities from connecting electricity service to homes which do not have a state inspected and approved sewage system already constructed.  But in some remote areas, I still know of a few cases where a serious loop hole in that law is sometimes exploited.  You can have electricity hooked to a barn, garage, or outbuilding which is not being used or intended for human habitation.  People who don't intend or can't afford to build an approved sewage system sometimes build an outbuilding very close to the site where they intend to build a house or set a trailer.  They have electricity hooked to that building via a power pole with an attached meter base and fuse box which is large enough to operate a home.  Then when the power company turns their back the home is built or a trailer installed within a few feet of the pole and fuse box and the power is wired to that structure without informing the power company. Then the customary sewage situation is usually a straight pipe into a creek. I do not say this to imply that I believe it is either correct or acceptable.  I am simply commenting on a common practice.  I know quite well we are all better off with and should all have complete sewage systems, indoor bathrooms, running water, and the best of sanitation.  But I am also saying that outdoor toilets did not kill us all and many people have fond memories of the "little brown shack out back", "four rooms and a path".  I even remember my father telling me of how, when he was a child in the late 1800's that he and his family kept a one by twelve inch board about two feet long leaned up against the wall near a hearth and they carried it to the toilet in cold weather to put their feet on it while they did their business.  We often hear toilets mentioned in southern and Appalachian literature, country songs, and stories told by old men near coal stoves in country stores.

The outdoor toilet played a major role in the lives of millions of poor people all over the country and more still exist than you might believe.  Many of them may now be used only as tool sheds, storage buildings, or dog houses.  But as you drive the hills and hollows of all the states of Central and Southern Appalachia keep an eye out and you will see them still sitting somewhere near the edge of more properties than you might have believed.  

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Freedom Of Speech--Stand Up, Speak Up, Speak Out!

American Flag Photo By

Yesterday, July 7, 2017, I received an unexpected phone call from an employee of a large private practice medical practice in Lexington, KY, of which I had been a patient for several years beginning in the early 1990's.  I had become a patient of that practice when a general practitioner I was seeing, greatly respected, and trusted absolutely became a member of that practice.  A few years later, that physician had left that practice and I had gone along with him, following him in at least two practice moves in Central Kentucky because of that trust, respect, and genuine affection for him.  The last time I had seen him, in another practice, about two years ago I felt that he had slipped some in his attention to detail and decided to end my association with him.  When it came time a year of so ago for my annual physical, I had randomly chosen another member of that former practice from which I received the call yesterday and went to see him for my annual physical.  During that physical, we had discussed my potential need for a shingles vaccination and the doctor remarked that "we don't do those here but I can write you a prescription for one and you can get it at a pharmacy.  Barack Obama makes me charge you over $200 for that shot."  The remark was clearly intended to criticize the Affordable Care Act and President Obama.  It also clearly labeled the physician as a Republican party member or sympathizer.  I instantly responded to him that he "still need to be voting Democratic".  He said "we can discuss that some other time" and walked out of the examining room.  To say the least, I was clearly irked by his attempts to criticize both the Affordable Care Act and the best President in recent years in this country.  

President Barack Obama Photo  By White House Archives

When I answered the phone yesterday, the employee stated that it was time for my Medicare Physical and they were calling to schedule it with the physician in question.  I hesitated at first before going on to discuss the issue with the employee.  But after a moment of thought, I told her the story of my previous encounter with the doctor and the fact that his comments had "irked me".  To which she replied "Our Medicare Physicals are performed by one of our nurse practitioners.  Would you like me to schedule you with one of them?"  My response was, "I have three perfectly good nurse practitioners in the county in which I live. I prefer to be seen by an MD. We are facing ongoing treason in this country and I will not support or condone it. I will not spend my money anywhere it is even remotely possible that even one cent of it could go to support a Republican cause."  At that point, she asked me if I would like her to remove me from the patient list of the practice.  After a second of thought, I told her to remove me. Even before the phone call, I had been contemplating the fact that I have not seen a physician in over a year and needed to schedule with someone for an annual physical.  I have no known health problems or prescriptions and had not been under any pressure to find a new doctor any time soon. But I had recently asked a Facebook Friend who works for a nursing college to help me find a politically liberal general practitioner. 

But the two conversations and my ruminations about them have led me to come to some important conclusions.  Firstly, I realized that I should never have hesitated even briefly to voice my opposition to the doctor's defamation of both President Obama and the Affordable Care Act.  I also realized that no one should ever, in these times when TRAITOR Trump, regularly attacks both free speech and a free press, hesitate to voice their freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or any other constitutional freedom. On a daily basis, every citizen in America should be speaking out in defense of the US Constitution and the freedoms it guarantees.  On a daily basis, every citizen in America should be willing to confront TRAITOR Trump, his criminal syndicate which occupies the White House, his TREASON which has placed all of American Democracy in danger, and the Right Wing Radical Repugnicans who tolerate, defend, and support him in his ongoing crime spree against the human race.  I will not, I cannot, I must not stand silently by and watch the destruction of all that is sacred in American politics and government while a gang of Russian Owned TRAITORS work to destroy it.  And neither should you.  Stand up, speak up, speak out to defend the freedoms which all of American history and the US Constitution guarantee you and every other citizen of this country. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

"A Pictorial History Of Knott County Kentucky 125th Anniversary"--Book Review

Editorial Staff Troublesome Creek Times 2010 A Pictorial History Of Knott County Kentucky 125th Anniversary (Morley, MO Acclaim Press 2010)

Somehow when this book was fresh off the press I missed it and only learned of its publication recently when I attended the traveling Smithsonian Exhibition on Community Sports called Hometown Teams in Wayland, KY.  My cousin, Charlotte Hicks Caudill, who writes on a part time basis for the Troublesome Creek Times informed me of its existence.  As soon as I returned home from the exhibition, I called several numbers in Hindman, KY, the county seat of Knott County and the site of the Troublesome Creek Times.  No one including the man who answered the phone at the newspaper office could give me a location where I could buy a copy of the book. That individual even told me that there were no plans to publish other copies or editions of the book. I found that interesting since the web site of Acclaim Press still says to this very day, July 6, 2017, that you can obtain a copy of the book by sending a check or money order to the Troublesome Creek Times.  Based on my own somewhat confusing and convoluted experience, rest assured that the only way to obtain a copy is to order it directly from Acclaim Press which my wife did after I became frustrated and intended to give up.  

Photo By Acclaim Press and Troublesome Creek Times

But that is enough grousing about the vagaries of such presses and the difficulty of buying their books.   Acclaim Press is in some ways a small press with a narrow base of publishing interest.  In other ways, if you peruse their online catalogue, they appear to be a money making enterprise and offer a sizable list of books, primarily of local interest to small geographic entities all across the Midwest and South.  They would have to be considered a vanity press since one of the largest and most visible link buttons on their homepage reads "Publish Me".  They seem to make a well funded living publishing the "literary" and "historical" whims of well funded would be writers all across the country.  Physically, "A Pictorial History Of Knott County Kentucky 125th Anniversary" is a solid, very presentable hardback book with a strong binding, relatively good reproduction of the multitude of photographs of many ages and qualities which comprise the book, and printed on good quality paper.  If you are in the mood to spend your hard earned money in order to see your dearly beloved moniker smiling back at you from the cover of a book, Acclaim Press is probably just as good a place to start as any other vanity press.  For those of you who have never heard the term "vanity press", such presses are publishing houses which publish books for which the authors pay all or most of the cost.  Most vanity presses offer little or not editorial control or criticism and publish exactly what they receive from an author complete with typographical errors, general errata, and outright lies which an author might believe will serve their particular purposes.  Consider the foregoing paragraph to be my little sermon for the day about the weaknesses of vanity presses if you are in the mood to be famous at your own expense.  

Now, let me say a few words about these types of "historical" books in general and this book in particular.  As a genre, these types of books have little or nothing to do with history. They are more accurately to be described as a collection of fairly recent to ancient episodes in the life of a community at best.  At worst, such books are a potpourri of randomly selected and arranged photographs from the area in question and have little or no textual discussion of the material offered.  They also have a tendency to have a very prevalent volunteer bias.  "Volunteer bias" is a term from academic research which describes the many short comings of research which uses only those people who step out of anonymity for their own undisclosed reasons and tend to skew research toward whatever opinions or biases they hold.  In the case of "A Pictorial History of Knott County Kentucky 125th Anniversary", what has happened is that the only photographs included in the book are those whose owners had a desire to see them included.  I do not know if the editors and publishers charged a submission fee for each photograph or not but it is a common practice in such books to do so.  Therefore, do not delude yourself into believing that this is a historical book.  It does contain some photographs of people who were well known in Knott County.  It also does not contain any photographs of most of the previous elected officials in Knott County, most of the more notorious murders and criminals, or any of the better known bootleggers and moonshiners who called the county home.  It leaves a great deal to be desired if you are actually looking for historical information about the county and its people.  Some families whose members had lots of photographs and an inherent desire to see those photographs memorialized in "black and ink" to quote Lum and Abner managed to get the book to appear as if their families were among the most prominent in the county.  Other families whose members played highly important roles in the county are not represented by a single photograph because none of the family members submitted to the editors.  The bottom line is that you should take this book with a very large grain of salt.  

If you approach the book, "A Pictorial History Of Knott County Kentucky 125th Anniversary", with the idea that it would be nice to see some photographs of your family and friends, old teachers, old companions long forgotten, or just someone you detested and don't ever want to forget, then you won't be disappointed.  But don't approach this book with the delusion that you are looking at history.  History and this book have never been introduced and did not bump into each other going up or down the courthouse steps skittering to and fro on Goose Avenue. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

West Virginia Route 10 My Favorite Places In Appalachia

One of The Most Interesting Roads In Appalachia
I have spent many hours and miles along West Virginia Route 10, primarily as a door to door vacuum cleaner salesman.  But I also lived for several years in Logan and Williamson, West Virginia, and drove up and down the road for leisure also.  And it is a fine road for leisure driving.  Every mile of it lies within Appalachia and it can take you from Huntington on its northern end to Princeton on its southern end for a grand tour of many different aspects of Appalachia including Huntington's urban Appalachian environment; Lincoln County's transition from the coal fields to the city;  the coal fields of Logan, Wyoming, and Mercer Counties; and the border country around Princeton & Bluefield where West Virginia ends and becomes the more rolling country of Western Virginia.  There is no finer place in Appalachia to spend a long weekend or even a week of slow driving, stopping, picture taking, and self education about the people and the land of South Western West Virginia.  

Just a few days ago, my wife Candice and I took a three day trip to Beckley, WV, to celebrate our twenty-fifth anniversary and a significant section of that trip took place on West Virginia Route 10 between Logan, WV, and the Mouth of Huff Creek just up the Guyandotte River above Man, WV.   This was my first drive on the new section of Route 10 which is being reconstructed into a four lane highway.  That construction project gave me very mixed feelings.  I had begun this post several months ago and left in unfinished for a variety of time-consuming reasons.  I wish I had finished it while readers could have had the option to drive the old, winding, cliff-hanging version of Route 10 that I will always remember fondly.  If you have never driven Route 10 and have a summer day left free, take a few hours or a few days and drive as much of Route 10 as you can while it is still its wild, wonderful self.  Climb onto Route 10 wherever you can within driving distance of your home, flip a coin and turn north or south and head to the Ohio or Virginia border.  You will love the trip.  If you happen to drive the section between Logan and the Mouth of Huff Creek, I would suggest that you take the time to drop off the new, four lane section and drive whatever portion you find still in existence between Stollings and Man.  That road clings to the cliffs above the Guyandotte River and bangs your elbows against the mountains as you look down now and then on the river far below.  It might not be Highway 1 in California but it was a fine piece of country road in its heyday.  I will miss it and so will many others who enjoy a drive in the country when you can see the red buds and dogwoods lighting up the mountains and almost smell the ramps hiding in the leaf mold in the high elevation coves near the ridges.  Or drop off I-64 in Huntington and head South to Chapmanville and Logan and take that slow trip along the Guyandotte River through West Hamlin and past Little Harts Creek and Big Harts Creek, slow down as you drive across the river at Peck's Mill until you meet the four lane at Logan.  That is a wonderful drive through some of the best, most authentic portions of West Virginia.  Get to know it while you can.  You will thank me for it. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

"When Even Angels Wept A Story Without A Hero" by Lately Thomas--Book Review

Thomas, Lately 1973 When Even Angels Wept A Story Without A Hero (New York--William Morrow & Co. 1973)

Several months ago, as the Republican primary season was beginning to heat up and Kentucky's Right Wing Radical Republican Senator Rand Paul announced his candidacy for the presidency I began to read every word I could find on the late Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy who is forever linked to his effort to destroy what he believed or claimed was a communist scourge in America.  Instead of destroying communism, McCarthy destroyed the lives of literally thousands of good, decent, patriotic Americans who were not remotely communists.  I have mentioned in this blog before that in my lifetime I have met and learned from four of the people whose lives were greatly damaged by McCarthy.  I saw a similar willingness on the part of Rand Paul to ignore individual constitutional rights on a mission of pure self interest.  What I did not see at the time I began my reading about Joseph McCarthy was that a far greater danger than Rand Paul was lurking on the American horizon, the TRAITOR Donald Trump.  However, my reading about McCarthy was made just as timely and just as important to American Democracy by the sudden ascendancy of TRAITOR Trump on the political scene.

In the same time frame, I began reading as much of the body of dystopian literature as I could consume since I saw a likelihood for politicians like Rand Paul and the TRAITOR Donald Trump to attempt to destroy freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and most other constitutional freedoms which has happened nearly on a daily basis since the TRAITOR Donald Trump managed to consort with Vladimir Putin in order to steal the American election and the White House.  I have written several blog posts here based on that foresight and the body of dystopian literature.  I have read and written about the work of George Orwell and I have also written about the history of the Holocaust and European Resistance to the Nazi's and Russians.   

As a part of this multifaceted study of literature, I read "When Even Angels Wept A Story Without  A Hero" by Lately Thomas.  The book is a bit long in the tooth having been published in 1973.  But there is not a more timely book for every American to read than this one in light of the ongoing attempts by TRAITOR Trump to destroy freedom of the press and individual constitutional freedoms in America. I actually finished the book a few weeks ago but did not have the time to write about it sooner.  In the interim, TRAITOR Trump has unceremoniously, injudiciously, and self-destructively fired FBI Director James Comey and Director Comey has now testified before the US Senate about the circumstances leading to his firing.  Comey's testimony has contributed significantly to the case against TRAITOR Trump in his association with Vladimir Putin in the hijacking of the presidential election.  More will come of all this in the next few weeks.  It is also significant that the top federal criminal prosecutor, Deputy Solicitor General  Michael Dreeben, has joined the staff of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller in the ongoing investigation of the Russian conspiracy which has led to the seizure of the White House by TRAITOR Trump and his criminal syndicate.  There is no better time for American citizens to read and study Lately Thomas' book about Joseph McCarthy, who until this year was the greatest political criminal the USA had ever seen.

Lately Thomas takes an interesting position about Joseph McCarthy and his actions. Thomas concludes and states in his introduction to the book that Joseph McCarthy was "a pirate".

"...Joseph McCarthy was a pirate, and one does not, one cannot, pass valid moral judgments on pirates...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 McCarthy, [and in TRAITOR Trump] 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 incognizant; 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, either the best or the worst of them...because intuitively we grasp that their ways of standards and conduct lie outside the confines of conventional morality.  Ways deplorable, doubtless, antisocial, and even horrible, yet, when regarded impersonally and from behind a buffer of distance, often fascinating.  Moral conformity is not the pirates concern.  For him, rapine is no more 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 accountable under statute law; we may even stretch his neck; but morally he will not be answerable to us."  "When Even Angels Wept A Story Without A Hero" pp. 1-2

Contained in that quotation from Thomas' book are several truths which were valid assessments of Senator Joseph McCarthy when the book was written; and those truths are equally valid  assessments of the TRAITOR Donald Trump and the political disaster which he and his criminal syndicate are bringing about in America today.  The TRAITOR Donald Trump is just as much a pirate as Joseph McCarthy and has "forced the moral walk the plank".  His past actions over the last fifty to sixty-five years show a consistent pattern of disrespect for everyone, everything, and every social restriction which society has attempted to place upon him. This recent article discusses his antisocial and violent behaviors even as a child.  It has been necessary for more than 3,500 innocent victims of TRAITOR Trump's business crimes to sue him in order to seek payment of just debts.  According to the article cited in the preceding link, these criminal behaviors are continuing today even as this career criminal and his criminal syndicate illegally occupy the White House.  In many ways, Lately Thomas' book might well have been written about the TRAITOR Donald Trump.

"When Even Angels Wept..." reads at times like a Shakespearean tragedy.  Joseph McCarthy was a poor Irish Catholic Wisconsin farm boy who grew up poor and rose to great power before his gargantuan psychological and moral flaws hamstrung him and brought him down just as permanently as that single unwashed tendon brought an end to Achilles.  McCarthy attended high school as an older student and finished in what was affirmed to be record time while supporting himself by selling eggs to grocers in Milwaukee.  He sailed through law school at Marquette University, was elected to a local judgeship, and joined the Marines when WWII broke out.  However, the record shows, as detailed by Thomas, that while in the Marines, McCarthy deftly finagled his way out of combat situations, managed to describe a common accident as a medal worthy combat wound, and set himself up to run for the US Senate from Wisconsin.  He was living the life of a pirate every day of his life and when he got to Washington that life became magnified, aggrandized, and blown out of all proportion to his actual qualifications and achievements.  Joseph McCarthy was a self-serving freebooter who went about gaining the chairmanship of a relatively minor committee in the senate.  Then he managed, by his criminal interference in the lives of the innocent, to turn that committee into the most publicly notorious arm of the federal government. In just a handful of years, McCarthy destroyed the lives of thousands of innocent victims in order to paint himself as a leader who was worthy of public office. 

However, the book reveals that McCarthy's vast, self-destructive psychological flaws led to his demise along with his alcoholism which was simultaneously destroying his health.  Joseph McCarthy died a premature death at 49 after having been brought into check by his senate colleagues who censured him due to his freebooter ways in the conduct of his investigations.  He was brought up short at the end of his chain much like an ill tempered dog.  There is a great deal to be learned by the average reader and voter by reading any available literature about the life of McCarthy and this book is a great place to start.  Read it with a jaundiced eye due to the somewhat overly positive portrayal which is provided by Lately Thomas at times.  Read it with an eye to the current ongoing political disaster in Washington.  Read it with the intent to find tools to be used in the political resistance necessary to protect our democracy and constitutional rights.