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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"We Be Warm Til Springtime Comes" by Lillie D. Chaffin BOOK REVIEW

Until recently I had never read anything by Lillie D. Chaffin even though she was from Pikeville, KY, and had served as Kentucky's Poet Laureate in 1974.  She also has an Appalachian Literature award named for her at my Alma Mater, Morehead State University.  After having read her children's book, "We Be Warm Till Springtime Comes", I have to admit I had been remiss by not having read her work.  I strayed into the book during an expedition to a small antique store which a friend owns where I sometimes buy a few items for my personal collection.  On that trip, I bought a few books of Appalachian or Kentucky interest and "We Be Here..." was one of them.  It was published in 1980 by Macmillan and illustrated by Lloyd Bloom.  The copy I bought was in excellent condition with the dust jacket in nearly perfect shape, still contained the original poster of one of the illustrations by Bloom.  It also contained a signed letter and post card from Ms. Chaffin to the previous owner.  I would probably have bought the book even if it were not purely Appalachian.  

The book is intended for juvenile readers from about the third to sixth grade and is a most genuine Appalachian story about a poor family living in poverty in the mountains in the middle of a hard winter.  The family is composed of a mother, a son about ten years old, and a small daughter.  The family is facing an increasingly hard winter with no coal or wood to burn for heat.  The son makes a decision, over the mother's objections, to go to the coal bank on the hill behind their house to dig for coal to help them survive the winter.  This is one of the most genuine and authentic Appalachian stories I have ever read.  Although we never burned coal when I was a child, the family farm on which I was raised in Knott County Kentucky contained the remains of two coal banks where previous owners of the land had dug for what is known locally as "house coal".  

For those of you who have no knowledge of coal banks, they are small holes dug into a coal seam which is at or near the surface for purposes of gaining access to enough coal to heat a home and fire a cast iron cook stove or "step stove" as most of them were known. But after several years of digging, a coal bank might be as much as hundred feet deep inside a hillside.  Few of them ever had a solid roof and roof falls were numerous. I have never dug coal in a coal bank.  I was very lucky to have a family who lived somewhat above the level at which many of our neighbors did.  But I grew up with and went to school with several children, mostly boys, who had to dig house coal in order to facilitate family survival.  I went to high school with three children whose father whom I knew was killed accidentally by a mishandled charge of dynamite during an effort to obtain house coal from a coal bank.  

The inherent danger of digging in a coal bank combined with the hard winter and poverty work to make this a very tense book for a young reader.  But it is an excellent book for such readers at the same time since it focuses on the boy's self sufficiency, honor, and determination to help his mother and sister survive the winter.  His willingness to take a potentially fatal risk to assist his family is the heart of the story.  It is wonderful story and well worth reading.  I will take the time to find and read more of Lillie D. Chaffin's work and so should you.  

Lloyd Bloom's illustrations for the book appear to have been originally rendered in charcoal and present only a few shades of black, white, and grey.  In another setting, they might be considered a bit goth.  But they do an excellent job of increasing the tension of the book and stressing the dangerous potential of the effort.  Go online at a good used book site and find a copy.  You will enjoy this book a great deal.  

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016 So Little To Be Thankful For

As we come to this Thanksgiving season, the country is beginning what I am firmly convinced will prove to be one of the darkest, bleakest, most dangerous periods in the history of the country and the world.  Without even a plurality, the country has elected, via the electoral college system, literally the most dangerous human on the planet to become president.  Hillary Clinton has, as the counting proceeds, more than two million vote lead in the popular vote.  But Trump managed to gain an electoral college victory.  I have never been one of the misled people who screamed that the electoral college system was a mistake.  It is not.  Donald Trump is the mistake.  

Trump has absolutely no political experience and is prone to dangerous, misbegotten, and inflammatory statements that can lead to huge international conflicts when they take place in diplomatic discussions or are quoted in the popular media which the man loves to use to what he perceives as his advantage.  Trump has significant indicators of serious mental illness, specifically antisocial personality disorder with megalomania, the uncontrolled and irrational desire for power.  Now, he has achieved the ultimate dream of every megalomaniac.  He will be sworn in as president of the United States.  After having been endorsed by only two world leaders, Kim Jung Un and Vladimir Putin, the world's two worst dictators.  There is also significant evidence of an improper relationship between Trump and Putin before the election.  Trump was endorsed by only two large newspapers in the entire country as opposed to 56 which endorsed Hillary Clinton.  Of all the living former Republican Presidential nominees, none endorsed Trump.  Yet, somehow, enough voters fell for his lies to allow him to win.  Trump has begun assembling a cabinet which is comprised of a group of people who have nearly universally been participants in prior major Republican failures.  His chief White House strategist is a supporter of the worst Right Wing Radical organizations in the world.  His nominee for UN Ambassador has absolutely no international experience.  His nominee for Secretary of Education is a supporter of charter schools and the destruction of the Department of Education.  His nominee for head of the Environmental Protection Agency wants to destroy the agency at a time when global warming is teetering at the point where it will become irreversible.  The country is headed into a disastrous time from which we may well not be able to recover.  

If I had $100,000 cash with which to build a two bedroom wheelchair accessible house (my wife has been in a wheelchair for more than 18 years)  in a safe foreign country I would be gone to Ecuador, New Zealand, Canada, Belize, or some other country where rational government is practiced.  I do not  believe the USA is safe for the foreseeable future either militarily, economically, or socially.  Trump has bred, fostered, nurtured, and encouraged racial, ethnic, and class hatred in a way that no one since Adolph Hitler has done.  Trump's campaign was modeled after the methods Hitler used to gain power in Germany.  He is remorseless, unprincipled, unethical, and extremely dangerous.  The next four years will be a horrible time in America in which the Right Wing Radicals will attempt to dismantle and destroy every good thing which has been produced in the last one hundred years.  They will destroy the Affordable Care Act which has provided reasonable health care for millions who never had any before.  They will destroy the Environmental Protection Agency which is the only bastion of protection between the populace and the destruction of the planet.  They will attempt to destroy Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Food Stamps, WIC, the GI Bill, Student Loans, HUD, and a plethora of other programs which comprise much of the difference between a socially productive and progressive nation and an oligarchy which cares nothing for its citizens.  They will attempt to "privatize" every aspect of government which contains money.  "Privatization" is a code word for turning government funds over to Right Wing bankers and stockbrokers so they can loot the funds with fees and outright larceny.  

The most likely positive outcome that come out of this electoral disaster is that the Democratic Party can regain at least one house of congress in two years.  But with control of all three branches of government, the most dangerous human on earth has no checks and balances for the next two years.  In two years time, irreversible damage will be done to the structure and nature of American government.  Worst of all, Donald Trump has no self control and no desire to have any.  He is perfectly capable of causing World War 3 without even knowing or admitting how it happened.  Nuclear war is a very real possibility with Donald Trump and Kim Jung Un in control of two nuclear nations.  Trump is no more rational, intelligent, or ethical and Kim Jung Un.  They are very much alike psychologically.  Both are highly dangerous, unpredictable, and unstable people.  It will be a miracle if we survive the next two years without a major diplomatic disaster which could lead to an unwinable and unsurvivable war.  

There is little to look forward to with hope in the next four years.  The American electorate has bought a pig in a poke.  The pig is fetid and feral.  The poke is rotten.  There is little to look forward to with hope in America this Thanksgiving Day.  

And, just to forestall and foresee those who will ask "don't you have anything to be thankful for", yes, I do still have most of the standard, human desires to be thankful for.  I own my own home free and clear.  I have a wife who loves me after nearly 25 years of marriage.  I have a better than average education which has given me the tools with which to foresee the coming disaster.  For today, the very brief, foreseeable future, I live in a Democratic country which will be governed until January 20, 2017, by one of the best Presidents of the last one hundred years who has done a wonderful job in the face of 8 years unreasonable and irrational opposition by the worst congress in American history.  And, sadly, I have the judgment to warn the rest of you that a terrible political train is coming down a very dark tunnel.  I can see the light on the engine as it roars down the track.  Why can't you? 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Appalachia And The Cult Of Donald Trump

As the presidential election of 2016, rapidly approaches, it is apparent to me that most of the states in the Southern or Central Appalachian region will be won by Republican nominee Donald Trump.  It appears that only Virginia and North Carolina in the region will be carried by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.  Hillary Clinton, one of the best qualified presidential candidates in history will lose the region to Donald Trump, THE most unqualified presidential candidate to ever run.  Although it sometimes appears that I am the only person in Appalachia to remember the days of the Solid South when Democratic candidates could consistently count on winning every state in the Southern Appalachian region, there was a time when Robert Byrd, Ken Hechler, Carl Perkins, and Albert Gore, Sr. could almost sit in their Washington offices and produce solid majorities in the region for a Democratic candidate.  While I am disgusted by the recent Republican trend in Appalachia, I am not baffled by it.  There are several clearly understood causes for the change in the region.  

The Republican party has done a strong job of tying themselves to a few issues which are highly valued in Appalachia.  Among those issues are abortion, gun rights, and regulation of the coal industry.  Regardless of how much the lives of nearly every citizen of Appalachia have been improved by past Democratic actions, it is now common for a majority of Appalachians to vote Republican in direct contradiction to their best interests.  While I am not a supporter of a blanket right to abortion, I have sense enough to know that, in many cases such as rape, incest, and severe birth defects, abortion is the most rational action to be taken.  Gun rights will continue to be a hot button issue all across the country because of the marketing and psychological campaigns the NRA wages in cooperation with gun manufacturers and gun dealers.  As for the regulation of coal, the coal industry and several other types of corporations which agree with coal companies have done a wonderful job of propagating their fictitious "War On Coal".  There is not now and never has been a "War On Coal".  The coal industry has waged a widespread, long term, highly funded "War Against Regulation Of Coal" and a "War On The Democratic Party".  No Democratic president has ever made an attempt to stop the coal industry.  Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have stood firm, as they should have, to enforce coal regulations already on the books. Neither Clinton nor Obama has ever made any attempt to further regulate coal by new legislation.  But the coal industry, through the "War On Coal" public relations campaign, has indoctrinated and manipulated the majority of voters in Appalachia to believe their marketing lies and support Republican candidates.  This campaign has bred overwhelming fear in coal miners, land owners, public officials, and the general public that coal mining and the Appalachian economy will collapse if a Democrat occupies the White House. But the real reason coal is in trouble in Appalachia is that the coal companies have mined out all the easily accessible coal and it now costs about $40.00 more a ton to produce coal at the rail head in Appalachia than it does in Wyoming, Montana, Illinois, and OhioIt is a simple matter of geology, geography, and economics that coal is dead in Appalachia. The truth of the matter is that coal will not come back as a major economic force in Appalachia ever again.   It would not come back if John C. C. Mayo and John D. Rockefeller were both risen from the grave and elected to public offices.   But as a result of the well funded and persistently preached "War On Coal" publicity campaign, all across Appalachia, on November 8, 2016, a majority of voters will vote for Donald Trump, the most dangerous and mentally unstable presidential candidate in the history of the country.  Millions of dollars are being spent in this election by coal company funded political action committees to further spread this fear. 

Donald Trump's entire campaign strategy has been modeled after the plan Adolph Hitler used to gain control of Germany.  Donald Trump demonstrates many psychological characteristics which are commonly found in leaders of dangerous cults.  Donald Trump demonstrates at least ten of the characteristics which the Bible attributes to The Antichrist.  On a daily basis, Donald Trump demonstrates more than enough of the diagnostic characteristics listed in the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of The American Psychiatric Association in order to be diagnosed as an antisocial personality disordered individual with symptoms of megalomania, an uncontrolled desire for power.  Yet, he will handily carry the majority of the states in Appalachia with the exception of Virginia and North Carolina.  

A majority of Appalachian voters live under the mistaken belief that Donald Trump is qualified to be President.  But on a daily basis, Trump acts out of rage and hatred, belittles and reviles members of nearly every minority group in the country, threatens revenge against those who speak out against him, and, of late, has teetered on the edge of a complete public mental collapse as in the first Presidential debate and during his more recent early morning Twitter rampages against both Hillary Clinton and a previous Miss Universe who dared to speak out against him.  In all of these actions, Donald Trump has mirrored the mental weaknesses of Adolph Hitler.  

In a well written and accurate online article, Joe Navarro, MA, has written about the  Traits Of Cult Leaders, the reader will find a long list of traits which Donald Trump has demonstrated on numerous occasions.  I will examine these traits as Mr. Navarro, a former FBI profiler, author, and speaker, has described them and discuss how Mr. Trump does or does not fit each of these characteristics.  

1) He has a grandiose idea of who he is and what he can achieve.
On a daily basis, Donald Trump talks about how wonderful, successful, unequaled, and brilliant he is.  He has also said on more than one occasion that he is the "only person" who can solve America's problems.  This also directly mirrors statements made by Adolph Hitler in his campaign to rise to power along with the Nazi Party.
2)  Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, or brilliance. The entire presidential campaign of Donald Trump is built on his uncontrolled desire for success and power and his persistent fantasy of his brilliance in the face of nearly unanimous assessment by qualified mental health professionals that he is of average intelligence at best.  
3) Demands blind, unquestioned obedience.  Donald Trump has repeatedly had high level employees leave both his campaign and his private businesses.  There have been several of these people who have made comments after their departures that Trump wanted unquestioned obedience and acquiescence to his wishes and ideas. 
4) Requires excessive admiration from followers and outsiders.  Trump has demonstrated on nearly a daily basis that he is incapable of being critiqued, doubted, or criticized by anyone.  He repeatedly states that certain individuals and/or groups "love me", "really like me", "think I'm wonderful" and a wide range of other comments about how those who encounter him are entranced with him.  Nearly every time Trump makes such a statement it is totally unfounded and unsupported by any form of evidence or statistical verification.
5) Has a sense of entitlement--expects to be treated special at all times.  Donald Trump has made numerous public statements all during the campaign that he is special or better than all others and should be treated differently. He has stated many times that interviewers and debate moderators should not be allowed to fact check his statements, no matter how bizarre or false those statements may be.  He has stated on more than one occasion that the constitutional guarantee of freedom of the press should not apply to him and his actions.  He has attempted to prevent several major media outlets from covering his campaign because they would not adhere to his ideas of what they should write or broadcast.  He even went to far as to suggest that the presidential debates should not have moderators.  
6) Is exploitative of other by asking for their money or that of relatives putting others at financial risk.  Donald Trump's manifestation of this quality has been in the public eye ever since he announced his candidacy.  The well known issue which arose at his notorious "fund raising" for veterans groups has still not been resolved.  Most of the groups he claimed to have raised money for have never received the money.  This issue is also at the heart of the Trump University Case which is slowly wending its way through the court system despite Trump's blatant attempts to damage the reputation of the judge involved.  In the Trump University Case, thousands of people paid unjustified amounts of money for services they never received and the money was intended for the direct benefit of Donald Trump.  There is little doubt that the Trump University Case will result in federal indictments in the foreseeable future.  There is also no doubt that Donald Trump was only able to go into business in the first place because his father gave him money to do so.  
7) Is arrogant and haughty in his behavior or attitude.  This quality of a cult leader from Joe Navarro's list describes Donald Trump as if it had been written solely about him.  His recent bizarre behavior in the first presidential debate was a combination of arrogance, haughty disregard for both Hillary Clinton and the moderator, and was exhibited literally from the time he walked on stage until he walked off.  However, it is appropriate to note here that all his bizarre behavior was not due to this quality alone.  He was also extremely angry at being required to be held to the rules of the debate and frequently snorted, sniffed, and twitched because he was on the verge of a a literal explosion of anger.  Donald Trump lives under the mistaken impression that he is better, smarter, richer, and more competent than anyone else he encounters.  He would have treated Mahatma Ghandi or Thomas Jefferson the same way if he ever met them. 
8) has an exaggerated sense of power (entitlement) that allows him to bend rules and break laws.  This quality of a cult leader also exemplifies Donald Trump as if Joe Navarro had actually been writing about Trump when he wrote it.  His wish to have moderator free debates is a personification of this quality.  His refusal to release his income taxes when every presidential candidate for more than fifty years has done so is a manifestation of this quality.  His belief that freedom of the press should not apply to him is a manifestation of this quality.  The fact that he has caused more than 4,000 innocent victims to need to sue him is a manifestation of this quality.  The nefarious way in which Trump University was set up without qualified instructors, with plagiarized lessons and texts, and with total disregard for the financial safety of its "students" is a manifestation of this quality.  
9) Takes sexual advantage of members of his sect or cult.  Numerous women who have worked for Donald Trump or been involved in the Miss Universe Pagaent have begun to come forward with accusations of sexual harassment by Donald Trump. At this point, more than a dozen women have made public statements that Trump sexually assaulted them. A recent video tape showed Trump making a statement that because he was "a star" he could "grab them by the p...y".  Trump has also made at least one statement that he would "date Ivanka" his daughter if she wasn't his daughter is an example of this quality.  Trump has also recently made the claim that he "could have slept with Princess Diana" is a manifestation of this quality.  There is also recent evidence that Trump has appeared in at least one soft core porno video.  
10) Sex is a requirement of adults and subadults as part of a ritual or rite.   Joe Navarro's use of the words "ritual or rite" in this quality of a cult leader make it more difficult to state unequivocally that Donald Trump exhibits this quality.  But his public statements about sex and sexuality demonstrate an abnormal fixation on issues of sex and sexuality in Trump's mind. Trump's willingness to admit to an interviewer that he could "grab them by the p...y" shows how little disregard he has for any woman. His statements about Princess Diana and his daughter Ivanka are examples of his regularly crossing most publicly acceptable lines about sex.  There are also several statements from contestants in the Miss Universe pageant that Trump would "just walk in dressing rooms unannounced" at times when the women were nude.   His recent statements about the sexual behavior of Bill Clinton and insinuations that Hillary Clinton might not be "Loyal" to Bill Clinton also cross those lines openly, publicly, and without regard for public mores.  
11) Is hypersensitive to how he is perceived or seen by others.  This quality of a cult leader describes Donald Trump in a nut shell.  He cannot stand to be criticized or critiqued even though he is attempting to gain a public office in which daily criticism and critiques are the norm.  His constant comments about how others feel about him and how wonderful he is demonstrate this quality.  His rapid and rabid attempts to destroy anyone who speaks ill of him also demonstrate this quality.  His thin skin and inability to be criticized are the most common quality many people discuss about Donald Trump. 
12) Publicly devalues others as being inferior, incapable, or not worthy.  Once again, this characteristic of a cult leader from Joe Navarro's list describes Donald Trump as if he were the only subject Navarro had in mind when he wrote the list.  Throughout his public life, Donald Trump has made a career of claiming anyone who disagreed with him was "stupid", "a loser", "lying Ted", "lying Hillary", etc.  Any person who ever speaks out against Donald Trump is the eventual subject of his unfounded derision.  
13) Makes members confess their sins or faults publicly subjecting them to ridicule or humiliation while revealing exploitable weaknesses of the penitent.  While we have not seen Donald Trump make anyone confess their sins or faults publicly, we have seen him subject many people to public ridicule or humiliation.  All sixteen of his primary opponents and Hillary Clinton as well as debate moderator Lester Holt have been subjected to the excoriation and ridicule of Donald Trump.  However, both Holt and Clinton withstood these attacks, unlike Trump's primary opponents, and came out the other side as the better individual in the fray.  Trump has also used these tactics on any public figures who have endorsed any of his opponents, media persons and newspapers which have failed to endorse him, questioned his actions, or closely examined his motives.  
14) Has ignored the needs of others, including: biological, physical, emotional, and financial needs.  There are numerous persons whose needs have been ignored by Donald Trump.  The list includes the 4,000 innocent victims who have been forced to sue him for nonpayment of just debts; the thousands of people who paid exorbitant fees to Trump University and got nothing for their money; the employees, public figures, and American veterans with PTSD who have been ridiculed by Trump; the disabled reporter who was literally and physically mocked by Trump; as well as a host of other people who have been denigrated, shamed, or ridiculed by Trump up to and including legitimate world leaders.  It is also amazing to me that his supporters both in Appalachia and the broader environs of the country totally ignore Trump's blatant disregard for the welfare of others and still support his effort to become responsible for the well being of the entire country and the greater free world. 
15)  Is frequently boastful of accomplishments.  It is nearly unnecessary to discuss how Donald Trump personifies this characteristic of a cult leader.  He never goes in public without making some unfounded boast about how "wonderful", "intelligent", "brilliant", or "successful" he is.  Even after having his 1995 federal income tax returns made public and having the public learn he has probably not paid taxes in nearly twenty years, Trump has claimed this cheating of tax payers and the government is mark of his "genius".  
16)  Needs to be the center of attention and does things to distract others to insure that he or she is being noticed by arriving late, using exotic clothing, over dramatic speech, or by making theatrical entrances.  Once again we have found a characteristic of a cult leader which seems to have been written exclusively with Donald Trump in mind.  Donald Trump whines, boasts, yells, blusters, and blames everyone around him when he is not allowed to get his way and be perceived as the most important figure in any room.  He will constantly interrupt interviewers, debate opponents, and ordinary citizens at his rallies in order to try to appear as the center of attention.  He will whine like a ten year old boy caught stealing candy anytime he is required to defer to others either for debate time or for any other form of attention. Once again Donald Trump fits the characteristic much like a hand fits a well made glove. 
17) Has insisted in always having the best of anything (house, car, jewelry, clothes) even when others are relegated to lesser facilities, amenities, or clothing.  Trump makes a daily scene in public by boasting about the property he owns, the deals he has completed, the books he has written, and any other object or feat in a perpetual attempt to prove he is better, smarter, or more successful than those around him.  Not once in public have I ever seen Donald Trump give even a moment's attention to the acts, clothes, property, or success of other.  In addition to being a characteristic of a cult leader, according to Joe Navarro, this characteristic also demonstrates a deep seated inferiority in Trump.  People who demonstrate this quality are universally attempting to compensate for their own feelings of inadequacy, failure, incompetence, and inferiority.  
18)  Doesn’t seem to listen well to needs of others, communication is usually one-way in the form of dictates.  Yet another of the traits of cult leaders, as written by Joe Navarro, is like a snap shot of the mind and character of Donald Trump.  This characteristic describes Donald Trump's so-called "debate style" in a nut shell.  In the first presidential debate, Lester Holt was required to reel Trump in on numerous occasions because he was interrupting, shouting, belittling, and refusing to stay on the topic in the debate.  A Facebook Friend of mine, who is also a friend from the period before Facebook, shared a post after the first debate which discussed how Donald Trump had used several traits of domestic abusers in that debate.  If time permits, I will also address those issues with regard to Donald Trump in a future post.  
19)  Haughtiness, grandiosity, and the need to be controlling is part of his personality.  Just when you begin to think that no more characteristics of a cult leader can fit Donald Trump perfectly, another pops up that seems to have been written by  Joe Navarro after a therapeutic session in which Trump was the client.  Trump made a debate long failed attempt in the first debate to appear to be the person in charge, the person superior to all others, and made numerous unbecoming but haughty and grandiose statements and faces in an attempt to control the debate. He made equally egregious attempts to control the second and third debates. This characteristic of a cult leader is a deep seated aspect of Trump's personality.  He genuinely believes and proves it hourly that he thinks he is in charge of the world.  
20)  Behaves as though people are objects to be used, manipulated or exploited for personal gain.  Donald Trump has never, in a public setting, acted as if he thinks anyone is a person to be respected.  He routinely ignores, belittles, denigrates, besmirches, and criticizes anyone with whom he comes in contact.  His sexually derogatory remarks about many women ranging from Hillary Clinton to Miss Universe to Princess Diana prove his inability to respect women in particular.  Similar remarks about his male opponents and a disabled male reporter have also proven his inability to respect men in general.  He respects no one.  He sees everyone as an object to be exploited.  
21)  When criticized he tends to lash out not just with anger but with rage. Donald Trump generally does an acceptable job of hiding his anger in public settings.  But stories have persistently trickled out from those around him or who have left his employment about his verbal abuse of employees.  His inability to keep top level campaign staff has also been linked to his treatment of them in bullying, abusive, and angry ways.  As a retired mental health professional with twenty years experience, it is my considered professional opinion that Trump's bizarre sniffing, snorting, and twitching during the first presidential debate was a manifestation of his incredible and nearly unsuccessful effort to control his anger at being controlled by the moderator within the rules of the debate and his personal knowledge that he was clearly losing the debate to Hillary Clinton.  
22)  Anyone who criticizes or questions him is called an “enemy.”  The list of people and institutions which have fallen prey to Donald Trump's practice of this quality of a cult leader includes all his opponents, numerous of the finest newspapers in the country, the facility manager at a rally site, and many of the best journalists and television reporters in the country.  Anyone who speaks or writes even one word of negative assessment about Donald Trump is subject to fall prey to his attacks.  I will personally feel flattered if this writing reaches his eyes and I receive the brunt of one of his virulent attacks. 
23)  Refers to non-members or non-believers in him as “the enemy.”  While I do not easily find public instances of Donald Trump's use of the word "enemy" when discussing people who don't agree with him, he regularly uses other words which are equally as diagnostic with regard to this characteristic of a cult leader.  Trump has regularly referred to his opponents and their supporters as "liars", "betrayers", "traitors", "villains", "criminals", etc. all of which are either synonyms or near synonyms of "enemy".  He has no desire to listen to, encounter, or deal maturely with anyone who disagrees with his positions on any issue.  It is highly likely that this trait has also figured significantly into his inability to retain top level campaign staff.  
24) Acts imperious at times, not wishing to know what others think or desire.  I would refer the reader back to trait (19) with regard to this trait.  Many of the same actions which personify trait (19) also personify this trait of a cult leader.  Trump acts regularly as if no opinion or position other than his own holds any significance in the world without regard to how many people hold and express those opinions or positions.  The presence of this trait also indicates that Trump is clearly unfit to be in a public office which requires the office holder to listen to constructive criticism and examination of his actions or potential choices of actions to be taken. 
25)  Believes himself to be omnipotent.  On many occasions during this presidential campaign, Donald Trump has claimed that he is "the only person" who can correct what he perceives to be the problems of the country.  And, yet, he has never put forth a single structured plan to solve an;y of these perceived problems which can be read, examined, and assessed by others.
26)  Has “magical” answers or solutions to problems.  This trait is closely related to the previous trait.  Donald Trump regularly uses words such as "awesome", "wonderful", "great", and "tremendous" to promote his nebulous claims and cloudy ideas for solving problems.  His actions in these situations frequently comes incredibly close to a term called "magical thinking" which is a diagnostic characteristic in several forms of mental illness.  
27)  Is superficially charming. Once again we have found a trait of a cult leader which is the personification of Donald Trump.  He enters all public situations strutting like a barnyard rooster, superficially smiling, hand shaking, and attempting to charm everyone in the room. 
28)  Habitually puts down others as inferior and only he is superior.  Donald Trump lives this trait on a daily, perhaps even hourly basis.  In the mind of Donald Trump, he has never met his equal.  If God Himself came to earth to meet Donald Trump, Trump would assume it had happened because, in his omniscience, had finally realized that Donald Trump was the most intelligent and powerful being in the universe.  
29)  Has a certain coldness or aloofness about him that makes others worry about who this person really is and or whether they really know him.  Trump has a persistent affect in public and in interactions with others in which he stands apart from, ignores, and fails or refuses to join with those in whose company he finds himself.  His willingness to confront and belittle all others he meets is personified by a cold, distant, and artificially superior attitude.  
30)  Is deeply offended when there are perceived signs of boredom, being ignored or of being slighted.  With his all consuming need for recognition and adoration, Donald Trump seeks constantly to dominate conversations and public meetings.  He cannot tolerate any period of time in which he is not the primary focus of those around him.  He artificially creates reasons for others to pay attention to him. 
31)  Treats others with contempt and arrogance.  Yet again we find a quality of a cult leader which appears to have been written after a close encounter of the author with Donald Trump.  Trump speaks contemptuously of nearly everyone he has ever met or heard about.  Donald Trump wants the world to believe that he has no equal.  
32)  Is constantly assessing for those who are a threat or those who revere him.  Donald Trump has made far more than sufficient public statements about enemies, threats, or detractors to fully support his all consuming attachment to this quality of a cult leader.  He also frequently speaks at rallies of how certain people or groups who love him, adore him, respect him, or believe in him.  His most egregiously erroneous act of this nature involved his pointing out "my black supporter" at a rally.  
33)  The word “I” dominates his conversations. He is oblivious to how often he references himself.  Once again, the trait being discussed is much like a photograph of Donald Trump.  The majority of his sentences in public contain at least one instance of the personally referential word "I".  His incredibly self-centered personality is all consuming.  He has no ability to empathize, sympathize, or subsume himself to the needs of anyone.  Once again, this trait is a diagnostic feature of Donald Trump's deeply seated inadequacy and inferiority complex.  
34)  Hates to be embarrassed or fail publicly - when he does he acts out with rage.  During the majority of this presidential campaign, Donald Trump has managed (barely) to control his tendency toward rage.  But his body language has often belied his attempts to do so.  He is frequently seen to become tense, physically domineering, and has loomed over Hillary Clinton in a manner during one debate which most mental health professionals interpreted as an attempt to intimidate Secretary Clinton.  That attempt failed miserably and only pointed out Hillary Clinton's ability to function coolly under pressure.  
35)  Doesn’t seem to feel guilty for anything he has done wrong nor does he apologize for his actions.  Regardless of how often Donald Trump has been proven wrong, abusive, threatening, denigrating, or disrespectful of others, Donald Trump has consistently refused to apologize for any of his actions.  He genuinely seems to believe that he is never wrong, never inadequate, and never required to admit errors or even abuse of others.  
36)  Believes he possesses the answers and solutions to world problems.  Donald Trump has often made public statements that he is "the only one who can solve the problems" of America.  It is interesting and diagnostic that Trump's apparent hero, Adolph Hitler, also built much of his rise to power in Germany on the mistaken idea that he was "the only one who can solve the problems" of Germany.  
37)  Believes himself to be a deity or a chosen representative of a deity.  We have finally found the rare trait of a cult leader which Donald Trump has not manifested clearly and publicly.  However, we also have no proof that Donald Trump has ever expressed belief in a deity of any kind.  His mistaken belief in his general superiority does leave the door open to the possibility that Donald Trump might actually believe deep in the recesses of his dark, dangerous mind that he could be a deity.  
38)  Rigid, unbending, or insensitive describes how this person thinks.  Donald Trump has no ability to accept that anyone other than himself could have a better idea.  He consistently attempts to change the thinking of the entire world to his point of view.  There is absolutely overwhelming proof that Trump is incredibly insensitive.  His abuse and ridicule of the disabled reporter is clear and absolute proof of the depth and degree of his insensitivity.  
39)  Tries to control others in what they do, read, view, or think.  As stated in the trait above, Trump tries on a daily basis to change the beliefs and views of the entire country to fit his own twisted view of the world and his ability to control that world.  
40)  Has isolated members of his sect from contact with family or outside world.  There is not clear cut, overwhelming proof of this trait in Donald Trump as there is for more than forty of the others.  But, he does live in isolation with his immediate family in Trump Tower or other inaccessible living quarters on some of his other properties.  He has almost totally prevented his family members with the exception of one son and one daughter from being exposed to the media.  Historically, in American elections, the spouse of the presidential candidates is a key part of the public picture voters are encouraged to get to know. Often, the extended family including parents, siblings, and children are very publicly a part of the candidates team.  We may assume that part of the reason for lack of access to Melania Trump is her own questionable past with regard to her status as a non-native born person, the possibility that she may have been involved in prostitution, and that she has quite likely violated her immigration status numerous times.  But, I believe that the major reason we see no one in public other than Donald Trump is that Donald Trump trusts no one.  That deep distrust is rooted in his own knowledge that he is also untrustworthy.  
41)  Monitors and or restricts contact with family or outsiders. This trait has also been partially discussed in reference to the trait above.  Trump allows little or no contact between most of his family members and aides with the rest of the world.  No one seems to be allowed in or out of the sites which the Trump campaign occupies.  
42)  Works the least but demands the most.  Donald Trump's practice or lack thereof with this trait is not clearly discernible.  We do not know to what degree he works in comparison to those closest to him.  But there is absolutely no doubt that Donald Trump always demands the most from anyone or anything with which he comes into contact.  He wants it all and he wants it all from the entire country.  
43)  Has stated that he is “destined for greatness” or that he will be “martyred.”  There is absolutely no doubt that Donald Trump has believed for many years that his is "great", "wonderful", "very intelligent", and destined for greatness in whatever he attempts.  To my knowledge, we have no proof that he has ever stated he would be "martyred".  But there can be little doubt based on his thinking and public persona that if he had knowledge of his imminent death, he would believe he was being "martyred" and deprived of further "greatness".  
44)  Seems to be highly dependent of tribute and adoration and will often fish for compliments.  It is almost laughable to even bother to discuss this trait at any length with reference to Donald Trump.  Donald Trump cannot speak three sentences without attempting to convince those around him that he is "wonderful", "intelligent", "qualified", "a genius", or some other widely misused adjective intended to make him look better than he could ever hope to be.  
45)  Uses enforcers or sycophants to insure compliance from members or believers.  With regard to this trait, we know that Donald Trump has often used Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christy as well as several of his short term, upper level campaign staff to belittle, deny, denigrate, and defame anyone who  has spoken out against him.  The list of people who have suffered from the public rants of Donald Trump's virulent henchmen and henchwomen includes Hillary Clinton, Tim Kaine, all twelve women who have accused Trump of sexual assault, and any members of the media who have dared to write or broadcast stories which showed negative views of Trump.  
46)  Sees self as “unstoppable” perhaps has even said so.  Donald Trump has consistently voiced his mistaken belief that he will win the US Presidency and often belittled every opponent he faced in the campaign.  Trump seems to live under the mistaken impression that he has been anointed to the Presidency and expresses that idea daily.  
47)  Conceals background or family which would disclose how plain or ordinary he is.  Discussion of this trait of a cult leader instantly takes us back to the previous discussion of how Donald Trump has worked to keep his wife and family out of the public eye.  He has also refused to disclose his income tax history despite a fifty year record of every previous presidential candidate having fully disclosed their tax records.  What we learned from the anonymous release of one year of Donald Trump's tax records is that he has successfully beat the United States out of nearly a billion dollars in income taxes.  He has also refused to disclose his wife's immigration history with the likely cause being a record of illegal behavior on her part.  Donald Trump is not exactly plain or ordinary in some ways but he is clearly an ordinary criminal and public miscreant.  
48)  Doesn’t think there is anything wrong with himself – in fact sees himself as perfection or “blessed.”  There is absolutely not doubt that Donald Trump is incapable of seeing any flaws or shortcomings in himself.  He is completely incapable of accepting constructive criticism or questioning.  I do not recall having seen Donald Trump refer to himself as "blessed" but I have no doubt that he lives under the mistaken belief that he is perfect.  
49)  Has taken away the freedom to leave, to travel, to pursue life, and liberty of followers.  Due to the fact that the Trump campaign does not function as a classic "cult" situated in a single location, it is difficult to see this trait being practiced.  However, we should consider that nearly none of the former employees who have left the Trump organization seem to be comfortable in publicly discussing Donald Trump or his organization.  None of his ex-wives have even spoken out about him and that seems to be motivated by a combination of bribery and fear.  
50)  Has isolated the group physically (moved to a remote area) so as to not be observed.  Since we are discussing Donald Trump and his potential to be or become a cult leader and are not discussing an actively practicing cult, this trait is difficult to observe or measure.  But Trump Tower and most of the other locations in which Donald Trump lives and the campaign works are isolated from the general public.  However, there is a great deal of secrecy surrounding this campaign and a clearly ongoing effort to prevent general public knowledge of how it operates, who does specific tasks, and how the organization interacts with the general public and the media.  A sense of secrecy pervades the campaign.  

At this time it is appropriate to make a few general conclusions about this blog post.   We have examined how Donald Trump might or might not fit the fifty diagnostic traits of cult leaders which were written by Joe Navarro, a retired FBI profiler, who wrote this list of traits in his work as a law enforcement officer working to intervene in dangerous cult activity.  We have found that Donald Trump clearly and unquestionably fits at least 45 of the 50 traits.  One or two of the traits are difficult to assess with regard to Trump because the Trump campaign does not function as a classic cult with a set number of followers living and working in a very limited number of locations.  The Trump campaign is a national effort which is headquartered in Trump Tower in a secluded and secretive setting.  The Trump organization does not go into shopping centers and recruit members for a cult and ask them to go off to a distant location and "find the light".  But the Trump organization does hold large rallies in a variety of public settings such as gymnasiums, arenas, and airport tarmac settings where the general public is encouraged to join an organization which is run by an individual who clearly fits the majority of cult descriptors.  It is also appropriate to state that, just as with any general mental health diagnosis, it is not necessary for a cult leader to clearly match all fifty traits in order for them to be a cult leader or for their organization to be a cult.  We have other examples of such cults in the past.  These include Jehovah's Witnesses and Scientology.  And one of the most telling characteristics of any cult is the fact that the average member has no ability whatsoever to doubt the cult leader or to see the danger presented by that leader.  The majority of Trump supporters fit that descriptor like a hand fits a glove.  Even though Trump has insulted, defamed, and denigrated nearly every minority in the world, admitted to sexually assaulting women, and verbalized a plan for the country which is clearly modeled after Hitler's plan to seize control of Germany, very few of his followers have been able to see his massive and overpowering flaws.  

It is also appropriate at this time to state my one serious misgiving about the fifty traits as written by Joe Navarro.  As a trained mental health professional, I believe Mr. Navarro could have condensed these traits into a significantly shorter list of perhaps thirty five to forty traits which would, of course, have been longer but more accurate.  However, it is also appropriate to say that Mr. Navarro wrote the traits with a primary purpose of law enforcement investigative work and, I am sure, they suited his purposes quite well.  

But, my primary conclusions from this work are that:
 1) Donald Trump is clearly a cult leader as examined by these traits.
 2) The Donald Trump campaign functions in many ways as a cult without a single confined location.
 3) The average follower of Donald Trump functions as a member of that cult without the ability to see or comprehend the degree of danger presented by Donald Trump. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Matt Bevin's War Against Appalachian Kentuckians...

...And All Other Kentuckians!


Three times in my lifetime Kentucky voters have made the mistake of electing a Republican governor.  In each case, it has become increasingly more disastrous.  The election of Louis Nunn was survivable and actually led to a period of extended peace from the Republican party.  Louie Nunn served from 1967 to 1971.  He is perpetually known for having raised the state sales tax from 3% to 5% and for many years it was known derisively as Nunn's Nickel.  Eventually, the tax was raised to 6% and Nunn lost some of his notoriety.  The next Republican governor elected was Ernie Fletcher who served from 2003 to 2007.  His administration resulted in multiple indictments of Republican officials which Fletcher managed to quash with executive pardons. These indictments included several members of the state highway department who had apparently been requiring membership in the Republican Party to receive a job in the state highway department. Due to the fact that prosecutors could no longer induce the pardoned officials to testify in court, Fletcher was able to escape by pleading guilty to a single misdemeanor and has wandered out of the public eye into the anonymity he deserves.  Fletcher was succeeded from 2007 to 2015 by Steve Beshear who conducted one of the most effective and progressive administrations in modern Kentucky history.  But in the election of 2015, an electorate of only 20% of registered voters made the tragic mistake of electing another Republican, Matt Bevin, who had lied, switched positions much like a flap jack on a griddle during the campaign, and had been clearly proven to be interested in only his own pursuit of power. This plurality of a very small minority of registered voters chose to elect Bevin over Jack Conway, a very effective attorney general. 
Literally, from the day the election was confirmed, Bevin has waged an economic war against every citizen of Kentucky.  Using the purchase of several elected Democrats in the state house by giving them highly paid state jobs, Bevin made an outright effort to buy the state house and made a political bet that Right Wing Republican candidates could win the special elections to replace the turncoat Democrats Bevin had been able to buy.  Luckily, voters in three of the four districts which were forced to hold special elections because of his efforts, Bevin's designated Republican candidates lost and Democrats maintain control of the state house.  This control of one house of the legislature has prevented a disaster from becoming a total conflagration of right wing legislation. 

From the start of his campaign for the governor's office, Bevin made another political bet that if he could be elected and manage to put enough money into the retirement fund for state employees that the current and retired state workers, a consistently high percentage voting block, would be loyal to him and help him gain further control and a second election as governor.  The outcome of that effort is waiting to be seen.  In a compromise, the Democrat controlled state house, Republican controlled state senate, and Governor Bevin placed about $800,000,000 in the retirement fund.  But almost immediately after the money went into the bank account, Bevin started an effort to remove the board members and replace them with Republicans who would be loyal to him.  It is my suspicion that the real objective all along has been to place the money in the fund, reshape the board to his liking and control, and ultimately to begin an effort to gain control of the fund for some of Bevin's friends on Wall Street which could open the door for massive mismanagement and potential theft via billing of outrageous management fees.

Bevin has also essentially seized control of the board of directors of the Kentucky Horse Park, the most financially successful of the state parks.  His first move in that effort was to remove Jane Beshear, the former first lady from the board.  He also cut the board from 17 to 15 members which is an effort to lower the number of loyalists needed to gain control of the funds available in the Horse Park budget.   
Bevin has also used executive orders to take two actions which have the capacity to actually cost human lives in Appalachia. Very early in his administration, Bevin issued executive orders ceasing all state mandated training of mine foremen and all state mandated inspections of coal mines.  His action was clearly intended as a payback to coal operators who had actively supported his candidacy.  Although coal mining is in serious decline in Kentucky, the logical outcome of these executive orders will be serious decreases in safety in the mines which are operating.  While less miners are working today and therefore less miners are likely to die in total during the Bevin Administration, I have no doubt that the statistical ratio of deaths, injuries, and accidents to man hours worked will rise significantly due to the lack of state inspections and the increasing number of poorly trained mine foremen. 
Bevin also waged a great deal of his campaign on a stated intention to shut down the stated healthcare exchange which Governor Beshear had begun as a function of Obama Care.  The Obama Care program, during the Beshear Administration, had raised the level of insured people in the state to the highest level in history.  Several hundred thousand low income, elderly, minority, and disabled Kentuckians had health care for the first time in their lives.  The state healthcare exchange had been a model for several other states and was a shining example of just how effective and important Obama Care is and can be.  Bevin literally closed down the advertising for the program during the signup month and forced Kentucky citizens to use the federal exchange.  There is little doubt that several thousand Kentuckians, especially the less educated and less technologically adept, will have lost medical coverage which they had been benefitting from for the first time in their lives.  This action by Bevin was a clear cut attack on the poorest in the state as well as many minority citizens. 
Matt Bevin has also begun a steady economic onslaught at state boards, legislative actions, and any other area where significant amounts of money are handled. 


Friday, May 20, 2016

One Miner's Death And An Age Old Problem

On Tuesday, October 14, 2014, Justin Mize, aged 31, was killed in an accident at the Tinsley Branch Mine in Bell County KY and, as I recall, the story made little impact on the overall news reports of the day.  But then on March 7, 2015, I found an update to the story on the Internet news page of  WKYT-TV 27 with considerably more information about the reason Mr. Mize died and realized instantly that it was a story which deserved to be addressed in a blog post.  It is a story about a type of tragedy in the mining industry which was common in Appalachia before unionization  in the 1920's and which is becoming more common once again in the 21st century nearly a hundred years after these types of tragedies had nearly stopped.  Justin Mize died because he had been induced to enter a 67 foot deep auger hole to retrieve a broken chain from a mining machine.
The WKYT news story quoted the official report about the accident: "Foreman ****  asked the machine operator if he was going to retrieve the chain. When the operator refused, 31-year-old Justin Mize said he would go, even though other miners said it was too dangerous.  The rock fell on Mize seconds after he entered the opening. Workers were able to free him but he died later that day, according to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration." (WKYT-TV27)

Eventually MSHA concluded the investigation and released their report of the investigation.  The findings of the report clearly placed the blame for  Justin Mize's death on the foreman and mine management.  But the sad fact is that de-unionization of the coal industry and the breeding and nurturing of a strongly anti-union environment among miners as a result of structured programs such as the terribly misnamed "War On Coal" have created a level of employment fear among miners to the point that a miner would agree to enter a highly dangerous situation and place his life at risk at the behest of his foreman and in conflict with the admonitions of several of his coworkers. 

In the intervening time since this tragedy, Kentucky has made the terrible mistake of allowing a small right wing radical segment of the Republican party to elect Matt Bevin as governor.  The voter turnout was less than twenty percent and a far better Democratic candidate, Jack Conway, was defeated.  Almost immediately after his election, Bevin used an executive order to cease requiring state inspections of mines in Kentucky.  In the same executive order, Bevin also ended all requirements for state mandated training of mine foremen.  In the case of the inspections, Bevin's rationalization was that the federal government was already doing mine inspections and further inspections by state inspectors were unnecessary. He used the same rationalization to justify ending the state mandated training for mine foremen. 

A few days after this asinine action by the governor, I bumped into a former coworker and friend in a grocery store and we struck up a conversation which covered a range of topics including politics.  It is pertinent to state that this woman's father was killed in a mining accident in Ohio about twenty years ago when she was a small child.  It is also pertinent that she is a master's level social worker and a former winner of a Kentucky Governor's Scholarship.  She is generally well informed on news issues and coal mining issues.  But when I brought up the recent executive orders from Governor Bevin, she told me she was not aware of it.  This was a surprise to say the least.  But it is an example of how little attention most citizens of Kentucky have been paying to political actions in this state.  And that, my friends, is as great a tragedy as the death of Justin Mize or any other coal miner who dies because he is being coerced to perform a task which is clearly too deadly to be attempted.  This total ignorance of critical and destructive political actions by the citizenry along with their mass refusal to vote in crucial elections allows such Right Wing Radical Repugnicans as Matt Bevin to gain public office and perform asinine and destructive acts because they have no empathy or compassion for the citizens they allegedly "govern".  These executive actions by Governor Bevin will lead to the deaths of other men in unnecessary accidents just as Justin Mize did. 

Admittedly, there are far fewer miners working in Kentucky today and total numbers of fatal accidents and fatalities may be lower on their face in the four years to come.  But it can virtually be guaranteed that fatal accidents to man hours worked will be higher with such a governor in office who is willing to ignore the need for mine safety.  Statistically, the deaths per thousand man hours ratio will become higher because of this decision.  While the great majority of responsibility  for these future accidents and deaths will rest on the head of Matt Bevin, a portion of that responsibility also will rest on the heads of all the eligible Kentuckians who refuse to vote in such critical elections.  I will close this post with an axiom which I sadly find myself repeating more and more often these days: BAD POLITICIANS ARE ELECTED BY GOOD PEOPLE WHO DO NOT VOTE!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Kudzu Evening With Poets Hazard Community & Technical College April 28, 2016


Last night, April 28, 2016, my wife Candice and I traveled from our house in West Liberty, KY, to the Hazard Community And Technical College campus in Hazard, KY, for the 2016 version of Kudzu "Evening With Poets".  We went there primarily to see West Virginia author and University of Iowa Writer's Workshop alum Marie Manilla read.  I have become quite enamored of her work after having read her novel, "The Patron Saint Of Ugly" and beginning her short story collection called "Still Life With Plums".  Hazard is only about 65 miles from our house and for us that is a reasonable drive to see an event which interests us both.  Marie Manilla was one of five established women writers in Appalachia who were being featured at the reading.  All had been published in this years edition of Kudzu, the campus literary magazine of HCTC.  The other featured writers were Darnell Arnoult, Shawna Kay Rodenberg, Carrie Mullins, and Marianne Worthington.  All are established writers to one degree or another and all write well, one or two even better.

The evening was a positive event and the writing which was presented was well above average.  All of the aforementioned women have had numerous publications and most have at least one book in print.  This year's edition of "Kudzu" was a special edition focusing on women in Appalachia and achieved its goal.  The magazine also contained writing from Pauletta Hansel, the current and first Poet Laureate of Cincinnati, an alumnus of The Southern Appalachian Circuit Of Antioch College in Beckley, WV.  There was also an entry in the magazine from best selling author Silas House.  If the goal of the magazine was to prove that a "student" publication at a small community college in Eastern Kentucky could gain and publish submissions from older, established regional writers, it was a success.  But, from my point of view, the goal of every student publication at any college should be to publish, promote, and assist in the establishment of long lasting careers for current students who wish to become known as writers.  The edition of "Kudzu" did contain quite a few pieces of writing from current students.  But not a single student was featured as a reader at the event.  To that degree, the event was a failure.  

In my opinion, every literary magazine which purports to be a production of an undergraduate writing or English program should work to make it possible for students to believe they can become the person whose work is published.  Such magazines should work to help those students believe and be perceived as writers.  The way that is done is make the magazine a primarily student based work, as many Appalachian religious believers say, from "kiver to kiver".  Students should be featured at readings, public presentations, and events related to the release of the magazine.  During the course of the evening, I met one young woman who identified herself as a student in a public speaking class who was attending the event for that class.  I saw one introduction of the student who won a "Kudzu" prize for student writers.  That student did not read at the event.  I did see several students serving soft drinks, water, and cookies.  One was sitting at a cash register selling "Kudzu" and the works of the established writers.  And, yes, I did buy copies of both the 2016 and 2015 issues of "Kudzu" as well as a collection of work by one of the established writers.  

I enjoyed the reading.  All of the women who were featured have earned their recognition with years of dedication to their craft.  All of them deserve to be published, regularly, often, and in as many venues as possible.  I do not say anything about this event in order to negatively assess any of the women who were featured.  I was enriched by their presentations.  However, I firmly believe that a "student" magazine should focus on helping students, in every way possible, to become recognized writers and being allowed to read at an event introducing a magazine which contained their work would have been a serious step in that direction.  

I can remember when "Kudzu" was introduced many years ago as a photocopied and stapled collection of work which was nearly all by students.  "Kudzu" is now a fairly slickly produced and presented magazine of quality work.  "Kudzu" has come a long way and I applaud that progress.  But, at the end of a two year community college education, how many of the students who worked to help produce that magazine will have  become recognized as writers to the degree their work deserves?  I suspect that number will be significantly lower than it might if those student writers were allowed and required to stand in front of a crowd and read their  work with a copy of  a magazine in their hands which contained that work, both literary and physical, along with their blood, sweat, and tears gained from producing that magazine.  Where were all the students???

Monday, April 25, 2016

Kentucky Proud Expo Morehead, KY April 16, 2016

My wife, Candice, and I attended a Kentucky Proud Expo in Morehead, KY, on April 16, 2016, primarily because Candice wanted to and I wanted to please her, or at least stay out of trouble.  The Kentucky Proud program is a program of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture which helps small farmers and farm families in the state to market their products.  To some degree, it also appears to be promoting the development of unique and unusual products in Kentucky.  It is, at least in part, a response to the end of the federal tobacco support system which caused many small farmers who had depended for years on tobacco to stop growing tobacco and to either leave agriculture all together or to seek other means of generating income on small family farms.  A secondary part of the Kentucky Proud program is the Appalachia Proud program which, according to their website, "celebrates the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit of eastern Kentucky while at the same time honoring its traditions".  Based on one day of exposure to the program, I don't buy into the sales pitch entirely or perhaps even much at all.  I have, for many years, been a believer that Appalachia and Appalachian Kentucky have been far better off when most of the rest of the world leaves us alone.  I have also seen far too many examples of people and organizations which came to the region with the best of intentions and proved absolutely that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  But I have to admit that my overall impression of the Kentucky Proud Expo was primarily positive. 

We spent about two hours in the Morehead Convention Center at the expo talking to exhibitors, sampling foods, viewing products, and buying a few.  We met a few truly unique and interesting people doing, or attempting to do, some worthwhile and productive work on small farms in Kentucky and Appalachian Kentucky.  But, as a dyed in the wool native Appalachian, I was not convinced that several of the these people were Appalachians or even Kentuckians.  It struck me that, as has been happening here for at least a hundred years, we have attracted a few individuals who might have fallen or been thrown off the edge of the world somewhere else.  California is not the only location with a tendency to attract strange wanderers.  

For more than three years (March 1989 to July 1992), I worked for Vision Quest, the controversial, for profit juvenile delinquency program.  For most of that time, I was the advance scout for the East Coast Wagon Trains.  That job required me to locate campsites for two wagon trains each comprised of 75 juveniles, 35 staff, 50 head of horses and mules, and a plethora of vehicles, mobile offices and trailers.  It was my responsibility to find a constant string of camp sites of 5 acres or more where this conglomeration could camp for up to 4 days at a time free of charge.  During my time there, I traveled with the wagon trains from Okeechobee, Florida, to Hudson, Michigan, to Okeechobee, to Peebles, Ohio, to Okeechobee, to South Carolina, a total of more than 7,000 miles before I left the job.  As a result, I was a great deal of various kinds of agriculture in a dozen states.  Yet, at the Kentucky Proud Expo, I ran into a couple of things I had never seen and found them quite interesting.  

Two of the most interesting things we saw involved raising yaks and selling yak products in Menifee County KY, and raising alpacas and selling alpaca products in Boyd County KY.  We met the owners of Silver Run Ranch Alpacas and found them to be quite interesting.  They make and sell a variety of alpaca products on a farm in Boyd County KY.  The operation is run by two brothers who also have outside jobs.  But they raise alpacas and sell alpaca apparel which is beautiful, soft, warm, and colorful. They are interesting to talk to, informative, and friendly.  I had been exposed to llamas once in northwestern Pennsylvania but never to alpacas.  We were offered the opportunity to visit at some point and see the operation and we definitely will do that.  Their website can be found at: Silver Run Ranch Alpacas Due to the information we were provided at the expo, I would never recommend anyone to just show up unannounced.  Contact them first if you ever intend to ask for a visit.  

We also met Gregor Dike and Linda Smith-Dike who operate Zhi-ba Shing-ga Tibetan Yaks in Menifee County KY.  They raise yaks and sell yak based apparel and, through another organization, they also sell some yak meat.  I assume it is necessary for them to sell their yaks for slaughter to an FDA approved operation which then butchers and markets the meat.  Both Candice and I love to experience new foods and new experiences.  I can't wait to get an opportunity to eat yak.  They are also willing to have visitor with the expected guidelines of advance approval and scheduling.  They can be found online at:  Zhi-ba Shing-ga Tibetan Yaks  I do have to say that I was disappointed to hear they do not milk their yaks or sell yak milk products.  After having read several books and articles over the years from mountain climbers and other visitors to Tibet, I have always wanted to try yak butter tea.  I must admit that many people I have read who had the experience did not care for it. But I still love to try new things and yak butter tea along with durian is on my list of the things others hate that I am dying to try.  I am sure will try to make a trip to the yak farm before summer is over.  

Candice and I would not presume to call ourselves read foodies but we are very broad ranging in our tastes, love to cook and eat, and, I repeat myself, love to seek out and experience all things new and interesting.  Candice had found the expo on the Internet and wanted to go to see new foods, recipes, and Kentucky products.  She bought two bars of soap from a place called Hidden Holler Soap Studio.  She has tried the lavender already and found it acceptable but not overwhelmingly positive. She says it doesn't really have a great smell but does seem to make her hair fell fuller. She also bought a bar of coconut oil soap and will try it later.  She also bought a jar of Ale 8 One based salsa from a place called Forgotten Foods Farm in Olive Hill.  We just tried the salsa last night with tortilla chips and Candice says she likes it enough to buy it again.  I found it too mild and too sweet.  This seems to be a good time to say that I am not a food critic and don't necessarily strive to be one.  I do enjoy a wide variety of foods, cook from time to time, watch a lot of food based television, and always seek new food experiences.  But I know what I like, have a fairly well developed palate, and can generally discuss food intelligently and explain succinctly why I do or do not like a particular item.  As a lifetime aficionado of Ale 8 One, this was not the best use to which the soft drink has ever been applied. I could not resist the opportunity to buy a half pint jar of what Forgotten Foods Farm was selling under the name paw paw jam.  I have written about my love of paw paw's on this blog in the past.  That post can be found at Paw Paw Post  I brought the jar home and even Candice couldn't wait to try it.  We made two slices of toast that night and cracked open the paw paw jam.  To my surprise there was absolutely no taste or smell of paw paw's in it.  As anyone who has ever eaten paw paw's can tell you, the two most distinctive qualities of a paw paw are the flavor and the smell.  To that degree, they rival another of my old time favorites, the plum granny.  The ingredients of the jam were listed as paw paw pulp, sugar, pectin, and citric acid.  The ingredient list might just as well have been similar to one of those on a jar of something innocuous and cheap found at your local discount foods store and carrying a brand name you don't recognize and don't want to remember.  They might just as well have read "sugar, dextrose, fructose, cane syrup, and artificial flavors and colors".  The best part of the paw paw jam experience was the eager, child like anticipation of believing I had just found a treasure I had imagined since childhood, another wonderful use of my favorite native fruit of Appalachia.  I suppose balloons are made to burst.  Dreams are made to die.  Illusions and delusions are made to live forever and grow just like Topsy. But, at least, I still have  a very nice half pint jar in which to save my change in order to pay for my next little educational experience. 

We also stopped, but failed to get a business card from, a couple who make and sell hot sauces from a variety of peppers they raise in their back yard garden.  I screwed up my courage and sampled what they say is their version of hot sauce made from the infamous ghost pepper.  Before I tried it, they assured me it was mild enough to not be lethal.  I have gradually developed a taste for more and more hot foods although I will always consider it an insult to a cook to ask for hot sauce in a restaurant.  I like hot food up to about the point I start to sweat, hiccup, tear, and develop a mild nasal drip.  I have to admit that when I heard "Ghost Pepper" I was fearful.   My fears were unfounded.  If it was truly made from ghost peppers, they had sufficiently diluted the capsaicin to prevent possible damage to the innocent and unsuspecting.  I tried a small sample on a neutral cracker and only developed mild hiccups, a bit of a nasal drip, and no sweating or tearing.  The adventure fell a bit short of the anticipation.  

I also bought a container of peanut brittle from a nice couple from Lexington.  It was acceptable but not especially great.  We stopped at a couple of vendors who were selling their own versions of spices since we buy a wide variety of spices and use them regularly.  We were not impressed enough with any of them to buy their wares.  We spent a few minutes talking to a nice woman who made beautiful quilts.  She was displaying a UK pattern and a strawberry pattern.  But she sews them on a machine and I will always prefer those which are totally hand stitched as they were in the days of my youth.  

My overall impression of the Kentucky Proud Expo was positive enough to go to another at some other time and in some other portion of the state since I got the impression many of the vendors set some mileage limit on how far they travel to the expos.  But I remain convinced that many of the vendors and state staff involved fall sufficiently short in their knowledge base about Appalachia that I believe Appalachia Proud is simply another marketing tool.