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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My Appalachian DNA

For several years, my wife and I talked intermittently about having our DNA analyzed but never seemed to get around to it.  Finally, last summer, we both sent off DNA kits to Ancestry DNA.  After about six weeks, we got the results back and much like everyone else who has DNA analysis done, we found a couple of surprises.  I had heard a far too common Eastern Kentucky rumor, prevarication, and old wives' tale that my paternal third great-grandfather, Aulse Hicks, had been the son of a man named Charles Renatus Hicks, who had been the first mixed blood chief of the Eastern Band Of Cherokee.  There had always been two schools of thought about this purported connection.  Most of us who had done much in depth genealogical research leaned strongly toward the opinion that there was far too insufficient proof to justify the common belief and there was too much geographical distance between the well known homes of Charles Renatus Hicks in Spring Place, Georgia, and the area of Western Virginia from which Aulse Hicks emigrated to Prestonsburg, KY, about 1790 to 1810.  In the misguided attempt to connect Aulse Hicks to Chief Charles Renatus Hicks, various people had tried to change Aulse's first name from Aulse to Austin or Augustus despite the fact that every piece of paper he ever signed in Floyd County Kentucky as a minister and well known man had been signed Aulse.  There has also never been found a list of the names of the children of Chief Charles Renatus Hicks which listed either an Aulse, Austin, or Augustus.  In my own mind, I was clearly convinced that the connection between the two was purely the work of too many overly active imaginations which wanted to fulfill the oft repeated Appalachian fantasy of "being descended from a full blooded Cherokee Indian".  I freely admit that as I learned more about Chief Charles Renatus Hicks I grew to respect him highly as a successful man in a difficult world.  I would have loved to learn that I was descended from a man who was the first mixed blood Chief of The Eastern Band of Cherokee, who was bilingual and wrote and spoke both English and Cherokee, acted as a primary interpreter for the tribe and the US military, served as a primary sub-chief for many years, owned one of the largest private libraries in the country as an Indian, and died as the Primary Chief of the tribe.  But I knew better and my DNA analysis proved me correct.  

My Father, Ballard Hicks, Photo By Roger D. Hicks

At this point, I will burst bubbles of fantasy for many descendants of Aulse Hicks and other Hicks' in Eastern Kentucky that they are "descended from a full blood Cherokee Indian".  My genealogy is Hicks on both sides.  My father was Ballard Hicks, a second great grandson of Aulse Hicks with the documentation to prove it.  My mother was Mellie Hicks, the granddaughter of Hence Hicks, whose name I have also seen misspelled and misconstrued in various ways in order to support the Chief Charles Renatus Hicks fantasy.  I have seen Hence Hicks mistakenly identified as being named Henderson or Hensley when I knew numerous people in my childhood who knew him well. He was a well known ambush murder victim in 1935 and every public record about him calls him only one name, Hence Hicks.  Both sides of my family were in Knott County in the late 1700's to early 1800's.  I have always said that I am lucky I wasn't born with a square head and that I suspect that if the truth can ever be proven it is highly likely that "grandpa" came through the Cumberland Gap alone.  By that I mean that I suspect that our original ancestor to emigrate to Kentucky came into the region very early in the settlement process, had a large family which dispersed widely, and eventually converged again to intermarry a few generations later after all family memory and the nearly non-existent record keeping of the time had completely forgotten about any family connections three or four generations in the past.  

Now let's get to the results of the DNA Analysis and burst some of those bubbles.  The first, and most painful bubble to be burst involves Native American DNA.  I, Roger D. Hicks, well-documented third great grandson of Aulse Hicks and a Hicks on both sides,  have absolutely no Native American DNA.  The major aspect of the analysis that was not a surprise also confirmed what most Eastern Kentucky genealogists have believed for years.  Ninety-eight percent of my DNA came from Europe and seventy-seven percent of it came from Great Britain and Ireland.  That was no surprise whatsoever.  But there were a couple of other minor surprises and two fairly major surprises left in the DNA. I have seven percent DNA from Scandinavia.  I also have two percent DNA from the Iberian Peninsula and less than one percent each from Finland/Northwest Russia and Eastern Europe.  But the bigger surprise was that I have less than one percent DNA from each of Southern Asia and Nigeria.  Since I have learned of the connections to Southern Asia and Nigeria, I have tried to imagine just how that interaction took place at a time which must have been at least eight or ten generations in the past, roughly two hundred years or more.  With most of my DNA coming from Europe and Great Britain in particular, someone in my far distant bloodlines had to be a bit of a world traveler.  Was an ancient grandfather a sailor who followed the canvas to points in Africa and Asia?  Was an ancient grandmother a slave who was raped by a slave trader?  Or did a pair of my distant ancestors both find themselves stranded in isolation somewhere in a place and time where the most logical response for their own good was to assume an interracial marriage?  I doubt that I will ever find the answers unless the religion of some group of my ancestors or another is correct and we all end up in a common hereafter either sitting around a cooking fire in the darkness, sailing a common vessel on seas yet unknown, or sharing iced tea on a shady porch and telling the stories in whichever place of exactly how we all came to be.  Sorry about all those bubbles!  

An Appalachian Graveyard

Monday, December 26, 2016

Right To Work: The Perpetual Lie

Now that the Republican party has managed to gain control of both houses of the Kentucky Legislature, they are foaming at the mouth with the desire to pass right to work legislation in Kentucky.  Until the recent statewide election, the Kentucky State House was the last Democratically controlled legislative branch in the south.  It had been held by Democrats for ninety five years.  Now, just as will happen in the US Congress, the Kentucky Legislature will attempt to take as much action as possible which will favor the wealthy and large corporations.  Right To Work legislation is a key cornerstone of that effort.  It is now, always has been, and always will be a weapon which corporations and the wealthy use to control and restrain the working class.   

A very pablum definition of Right To Work, which must have been written by a corporate lawyer states: Right-to-work laws govern the relationship between unions, employees, and employers prohibiting employers or unions from requiring existing employees to join a union or pay union dues. Employers are also not allowed to exclude non-union workers from the hiring process. Many Southern states have long had right-to-work laws, with Kentucky being a notable pro-union holdout. 

When the definition above states that "employers are also not allowed to exclude non-union workers from the hiring process", this definition hides the real intent of Right To Work which is exactly opposite to what is stated.  The only intent of Right To Work is to allow employers to avoid hiring union workers and to hire as closely as possible to zero union workers.  The further, long term intent of Right To Work is to destroy unions, weaken the ability of workers to collectively protect their constitutional rights, and to deprive those workers of those constitutional rights.  Right To Work prevents unions from collecting union dues or requiring union membership in a particular place of employment.  In the long run, Right To Work kills unions by attrition.  On November 18, 2016, a three judge panel of the Sixth Circuit of the US Court Of Appeals issued a decision which reverses a lower court ruling that overturned a local Right To Work ordinance in Hardin County. The labor unions who sued to block the law say they will ask the full appeals court to reconsider the decision. If that fails, Kentucky AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan said they would likely appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.  With the lengthy process of appeal to US Supreme Court decision, it is highly likely that the Supreme Court will have a new member, appointed by Donald Trump, after the US Senate under the leadership of Mitch McConnell of Kentucky refused to seat the duly appointed Judge Merrick Garland because he was the appointee of President Barack Obama.  It is also highly likely that any justice appointed by Donald Trump would vote to uphold Right To Work.  It is also likely that Trump might actually make Right To Work an element of a litmus test by which he would choose a justice.  The entire refusal to seat Merrick Garland, one of the most qualified judges ever chosen by a sitting president,  was an egregious miscarriage of justice.  Literally ever blue collar worker in America for the next quarter to a half century is likely to suffer the loss of various and sundry labor related constitutional rights because of that refusal by the US Senate to do their constitutional duty.  Workers in Kentucky are highly likely to be among the first in the nation to suffer the loss of those rights.  Today there are about twenty five states which have Right To Work laws.  Nearly two years ago, Wisconsin became one of the latest states to deprive workers of their rights.  

Right To Work weakens unions and removes all immediate incentives for newly hired workers to join a union.  Without exception, employers in Right To Work states actively avoid hiring any worker known to support unions and after hiring they discourage employees in all ways possible to prevent their joining any union.  Workers in Right To Work states gradually, and sometimes rapidly, lose safety standards, lose paid or unpaid leave days, see further hurdles placed in the process of utilizing sick time, vacation time, and other benefits.  Under Right To Work, employees always lose benefits and protections which have always, heretofore, been guaranteed by the US Constitution.  Union labor built American industry and gained many important benefits for workers.  Those benefits include overtime pay, vacation pay, sick pay, maternity leave, bereavement leave, provision of uniforms by employers, medical insurance, burial insurance, worker's compensation and numerous other benefits. In every Right To Work state, employers continue to push back against labor under the guise of "how tough it is to turn a profit" and work constantly in cohort to take back benefits which may have been a given for decades.  The Internet page at this link does an excellent job of exposing and explaining all the lies of Right To Work. 

The same website also does an excellent job on another page of discussing the facts about who's behind Right To Work.  They list several extreme Right Wing Radical organizations, most of which are funded and controlled by big business, whose sole mission is to promote Right To Work, to spread misinformation and outright lies about Right To Work.  The bottom line is that any blue collar worker should always oppose Right To Work.  Right To Work is a lie perpetrated by millionaires and corporations in order to deprive workers of the constitutional rights.  

Florence And Sam Reece, Appalachian Heroes

Florence Reece

In November 1974, I was lucky enough to meet Florence and Sam Reece at a conference at the Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, TN.  That weekend conference would be the only time I would ever be lucky enough to be in their company.  Sam Reece was already seriously ill with a plethora of health problems, most of which were related to his life in the coal mines and perhaps to physical abuse which he suffered at the hands of coal company gun thugs during the Harlan County Strike of the late 1920's.  At that time, Florence Reece was still in very good health for her advanced age.  She regaled the group at the conference with numerous stories of the years she and her husband had spent fighting for union recognition for the coal miners of Harlan County Kentucky.  She also spoke at length about her song writing and especially about writing "Which Side Are You On?", one of the best known union organizing songs in American labor history.  They also spoke at length of the harassment they had both suffered from Senator Joseph McCarthy and The United States Senate Subcommittee On Investigations during the communist witch hunts of the summer of 1954.  At that time, Senator Joseph McCarthy was running rampant harassing union members, union organizers, liberal thinkers, writers, actors, and any other public or semi-public figure who spoke out on behalf of the working class.  

Sam Reece was working as a union organizer in Harlan County in the late 1920's and early 1930's.  At the time, Florence was simply a miner's wife and mother to her children.  As Florence Reece told the story, one night in 1931 anti-union gun thugs employed by Sheriff John Henry Blair and the coal companies raided their home in an attempt to jail, or perhaps even kill, Sam Reece for his union activity.  The gun thugs raided the house, terrorized Florence and her children, and ransacked nearly the entire house searching for any kind of union literature.  Sam had managed to escape into the mountains just before the gun thugs arrived.  Florence always said that after the company thugs left she was so angry at having her home violated that she ripped a sheet off a wall calendar and immediately wrote the lyrics to "Which Side Are You On?"   The song instantly began to grow into the world famous union anthem it still is today.  It has been translated into dozens of languages and sung at labor, peace, and other rallies for the underprivileged all over the world.  It made both Florence and Sam Reece famous.  For the rest of their lives they stood up for the rights of the working class, endured harassment and hatred, and never flinched to their dying day in the fight for the rights of the downtrodden.  

The story of Florence and Sam Reece  has  been told many times in many ways.  It has become at least one book, "Which Side Are You On?  The Story Of A Song" by George Ella Lyon.  The story has also been told as a play, "Which Side Are You On? The Florence Reece Story"  written by Edward Francisco and produced at Pellissippi State University.  The story of Florence and Sam Reece is a story of courage in the face of danger, resolution in the face of fear, and suffering in support of a cause for the good of humanity.  By the time Florence Reece died in 1986, more than fifty years after the song was written, she was famous enough that her obituary was carried in the NY Times.  Here is a link to Florence Reece's memorial on Find A Grave.  Here is a link to Sam Reece's memorial on Find A Grave. 

Here is a link to the You Tube Florence Reece version of "Which Side Are You On?"

Here is a link to the You Tube Pete Seeger version of "Which Side Are You On?"

Here is a link to the printed lyrics to "Which Side Are You On?" in both English and French. 

I will always be proud that I was able to spend time in the company of Florence and Sam Reece.  They were two of four people I have known who were pilloried by Senator Joseph McCarthy for their works for the good of humanity.  I learned a great deal from spending time in the company of such people.  I learned that good people must always stand up and speak out in the defense of good, just causes.  I learned that good, just causes do not always win out.  Constant effort is required from good people to support such causes.  Men and women such as Florence and Sam Reece, George Washington, Thomas Paine, and Mahatma Ghandi, and you my friend must stand up, speak out, and sometimes suffer if just causes are to win.  Sadly, America is entering such a period today.  A self confessed sex offender, career criminal and Fascist is likely to occupy the White House in the near future.  America could use several million people like Florence and Sam Reece today. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The US Constitution And Dinner With Family

Portrait Of Thomas Paine

Tonight, December 21, 2016, my wife Candice and I went to Prestonsburg, KY, for dinner out with several of my cousins, their spouses, and some children and grandchildren.  As we sat down for dinner in the restaurant, my cousin Jack Terry, US Army Retired, US Army Corps Of Engineers Retired, Viet Nam Veteran, Iraq Veteran with the Corps Of Engineers, pulled out several identical small red packages and passed them out to the adults in the crowd with the words, "Here is something you are going to need in the near future."  When we opened them, they were pocket copies of the US Constitution.  With all his past military experience along with several years of working for defense contractors between the US Army and the Corps Of Engineers, Jack Terry would not be surprising if he had come to be a full blown Right Wing Radical Repugnican as many military people do.  Instead, he has done the only rational thing and stuck steadfastly to his Democratic and somewhat liberal beliefs.  All through the recent election process, both Jack and I have been warning everyone we knew of the imminent danger posed by Donald Trump to the US Constitution, to the country, and to the entire world.  Somewhere in the neighborhood of 54million people did not listen to us.  A majority of about 56million people like us knew the truth all along.  Yet, we still ended up with the growing probability that Donald Trump will be sworn into office as President Of The United States before any of his multitude of past crimes catch up with him.  God help us all if we have to suffer the consequences of all his potential future crimes.  During the next four years, if this terrorist regime stays in office that long without starting World War III, the US Constitution will be attacked mercilessly in a multitude of ways.  Just today in the Washington Post, Trump stood by his plan to create a national registry of Muslims which is clearly unconstitutional.  That plan is not only unconstitutional but is also a replay of EXACTLY what Adolph Hitler did to the Jews in preparation for the Holocaust. 

Sadly, this type of action will become more and more common if Trump actually becomes President and remains in office for any length of time with control of both houses of congress.  He and several of his cabinet appointees have already expressed desires to destroy the very departments they are being chosen to administer.  His choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, is one of the most highly visible opponents of the agency over the last ten to twenty years.  His nominee for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder,  has called for the repeal of the minimum wage and further broadening of legal rat holes which allow employers to force employees to work unpaid overtime.  Betsey DeVos, Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, has repeatedly called for government funding to be given to Right Wing Radical charter schools and Christian schools.  In Lemon v. Kurtzman in 1971, the Supreme Court established the Three Part Test for Established the three part test for determining if an action of government violates First Amendment's separation of church and state:
1) the government action must have a secular purpose;
2) its primary purpose must not be to inhibit or to advance religion;
3) there must be no excessive entanglement between government and religion.

Under Lemon v. Kurtzman, any use of federal money to help support church based schools is clearly unconstitutional.  In Edwards v. Acquillard 1987, the Supreme Court also decided that it is unconstitutional for the state to require teaching of "creation science" in all instances in which evolution is taught.The bottom line of these two decisions is that any muddling of government and religion is unconstitutional.  Yet many of people who voted for Trump support these types of actions.  What is interesting about this is that Donald Trump has not shown one iota of the religious beliefs which these people claim to support.  

Trump's choice for US Attorney General, US Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, was refused confirmation to a federal judgeship more than twenty years ago because he was found to be "too racist" by the US Senate at that confirmation hearing.  Sadly, Sessions and all these other nominees are highly likely to be confirmed by a congress which is now controlled by a Right Wing Radical Repugnican majority which appears to be far more extreme than the congress which impeded President Barack Obama at every step for seven years.  God help us all if all these people are confirmed and given actual power.  

There is no more important time than today for every intelligent US citizen to understand the US Constitution instead of believing some extremists positions being espoused by the conglomerate of extreme organization which helped to gain 54million votes for Trump.  Tonight's dinner with the gift of the US Constitution from Jack also reminded me of former US Senator Robert Byrd from West Virginia, who never went anywhere without his well worn and often demonstrated copy of the Constitution.  If you do not own a copy, get one.  If you have not read the Constitution, read it and study it regularly.  Speak out about the truths contained in the Constitution every time you hear some person motivated purely by self interest, such as Donald Trump, when they misinterpret, misread, and willfully seek to damage or destroy it.  Individual and collective rights are now under attack and they will remain under attack so long as Trump and his band of criminals and thieves occupy (and I use the military definition) the White House.  

I will be buying several copies of the US Constitution to pass on to others who have not read it or don't understand it.  I suggest you do the same.  To quote Thomas Paine: "THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."

Monday, December 19, 2016

Banner Brand Sausage, Breakfast Of Appalachian Champions

Recently, I strayed into a post about Spam on a Facebook group I follow called Appalachian Mountain Folk.  That post generated a lengthy and interactive string of comments from dozens of members of the group.  I commented that as much as I love Spam for breakfast I love Banner Brand Sausage better.  That naturally generated a plethora of comments about Banner Brand Sausage from people who both loved it and hated it.  I am betting that this post will do the same.  Banner Brand Sausage is made by Pinnacle Foods Corporation in Cherry Hill, NJ.  They also own Armour which makes things like potted meat, vienna sausage, and other canned meat products.  But neither the Pinnacle Foods or Armour websites even mention Banner Brand Sausage.  

When I was growing up in a country store, we sold a ton of Banner Brand Sausage and also ate it regularly in our own home.  Banner Brand Sausage is a canned meat product which is sold under the misnomer of sausage.  But it never takes the traditional shape and consistency of sausage as most of us know sausage. It comes out of the pop top can in a gelatinous round cake and quickly liquefies under heat.  No matter how long or how hot you cook it the liquid state remains unless you burn it to a dried out crisp.  The photographic serving suggestion on the can shows sunny side up eggs residing on a plate beside some sausage patties.  Rest assured that Banner Brand sausage never suffered the embarrassment of becoming a patty.  The printed serving suggestion on the can which is labeled "Sausage 'N Eggs" tells you to "Heat sausage; add slightly beaten eggs, and continue heating, stirring occasionally until eggs are set.  Season to taste."  I suppose some people actually eat Banner Brand Sausage this way and I did get a few comments on the Appalachian Mountain Folk group to that effect.  But in our house when I was a child, and in my house today more than fifty years later, we cook it simply by putting that aforementioned gelatinous mass in a skillet, heating it until it liquefies, and simmering it until the consistency and color suit our taste.  It is also appropriate here to say that the "season to taste" suggestion never came from a regular fan of Banner Brand Sausage.  It is spiced with a variety of seasonings at the factory which are more than sufficient to make it down the hatch with glee and a bit of warm, spicy zest.  Some novices will say that it is actually a bit hot in seasoning.  I love it just as it is.  But the real piece 'de resistance of the meal comes when you plate it with the other elements of a Hicks family breakfast.  I like to fry two sunny side up eggs in a separate skillet, heat a can of store bought cream gravy, and bake biscuits.  I place two open faced biscuits on the plate, throw the eggs on next, top that with the Banner Brand Sausage, and then hide it all under the gravy.  That, my friends, is breakfast for an Appalachian champion who intends to go to the log woods, the cow barn, the hay field, or a mule breaking where they will be expected to work until the sun is over the yardarm before eating another bite.  That breakfast will stick to your ribs all day long no matter how hard you work. 

Naturally, every time I mention Banner Brand Sausage some neophyte wants to know what it is made from.  Here is the ingredients list verbatim from the can: "Partially defatted pork fatty tissue, beef tripe, mechanically separated chicken, water, wheat flour, salt, less than 2% vinegar, natural flavorings, sodium nitrite."  Of course, every person who ever read the can wants to know exactly what "Partially defatted pork fatty tissue" is.  I am not sure myself and I have eaten many cases of Banner Brand Sausage in my time.  But I figure that if you have ever been present at even one Appalachian hog killing you have seen the fatty innards of a large hog.  Now just imagine that somebody took part of that out to eat instead of making lard with it.  God, I love to eat that stuff!!!  If you ever eat it, you will too!  It grows on you!  

Getting back to the post on the Appalachian Mountain Folk group, there were numerous comments which were pretty evenly split into two categories, those who love it and those who hate it.  But more interestingly, the comments seemed to be concentrated among a group of people primarily from Eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, and Western North Carolina.  This region seems to be the area where Banner Brand Sausage has been most commonly eaten.  The whole Facebook group thing and my own very fond memories of many warm mountain mornings eating Banner Brand Sausage led me to do some Google research and I found more than one or two comments and full posts about this delicacy.  I found one post on a blog called Dave's Cupboard which had the title Unspeakable Banner Brand Sausage.  In general, I like Dave's blog a lot but he is dead wrong on this one.  Dave is a man who has and will try anything purported to be edible but I have to assume, based on his post about Banner Brand Sausage, that he is sometimes a finicky eater.  I also found a post called "Canned Meat Review" on a blog called "The Ultimate Answer To Kings" which had this highly negative review: 

"All I can say about Banner canned sausage is Oh. Dear. God. This is the worst canned food product I’ve ever tried, and I’ve tried canned corn beef hash. I’ve tried canned menudo. I’ve seen (but never tried) canned haggis. None of those things are as horrible as Banner canned sausage, which (guessing here) consists of 99.736% recycled fat, some wheat, and a homeopathic dose of …never mind, let me just go ahead and print the ingredients:" 
Once again, I suspect that this writer is also sometimes known to kick his feet, throw food off the tray of his high chair, and scream "No, mommy!" at the top of his lungs.  I also found a You Tube video under the title of "Ewwwwm, They Call That Food: Banner Sausage Commentary". I have no idea how three people as spoiled and uncultured as these can still consider themselves to be qualified to critique food.  Actually, I just realized that the person frying the sausage in the You Tube video is wearing a South Carolina Gamecocks shirt.  How could we expect anyone who isn't a Kentucky Wildcats supporter to know anything about food or basketball?   

I also found an online recipe which calls for bacon grease to be added to fry it in after it has been mixed with flour and an egg.  Rest assured that Banner Brand Sausage does not ever need bacon grease or any other form of grease to be added.  The partially defatted pork fatty tissue will guarantee you that it will never stick to your skillet.  

I am certain that those of you who know and love Banner Brand Sausage have appreciated this post about one of our favorite foods.  I am also certain that many of you who have never had it might have stopped in the middle of this post and run whimpering from the room.  But if you have any sense of culinary adventure whatever, go to your local southern grocery store or the internet, buy a couple of cans and try Banner Brand Sausage.  You will thank me for it after you wipe your mouth and rub your belly. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

French Toast And Political Activism

Today, December 18, 2016, I made French Toast for breakfast for myself and my wife Candice.  Those of you who have read most of this blog probably know that French Toast is a metaphor for political activism for me.  In the post which is linked in the previous sentence, I tell the story of learning to make French Toast from Don West, one of the most courageous and politically outspoken humans I have ever known.  Candice asked me to make French Toast this morning because she likes my French Toast and wanted some for breakfast, nothing more complicated than that.  But as I was cooking the French Toast, I remembered that tomorrow, December 19, 2016, the US Electoral College is likely to confirm the election of Donald Trump, a career criminal, self confessed sex offender, and likely minion of Russian President Putin, to the White House.  Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by about 2.7 million votes, more than the vote totals of 11 previously elected Presidents.  But by winning Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, Trump won enough electoral votes to be declared the winner.  There has never been a more unqualified human who ever ran for the Presidency. 

Now, just before the Electoral College votes, we have learned that the CIA has stated they have sufficient evidence to state that Russian hacker, under the direction of President Putin, hacked many data bases in the US and successfully influenced the election in favor of Donald Trump.  Trump has nominated Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and Tillerson has numerous direct connections to the Russian regime.  Paul Manafort, a former campaign manager for Trump, was forced to resign before the election because of his proven connections to the Russian regime.  When the CIA announcement became public, Trump stated that he did not believe the CIA.  No potential president could have said anything that could be potentially more damaging to the entire country and it's security apparatuses.  Nearly in the same breath, Trump spoke out against China for seizing a US spy drone and then reversed himself and said that China could keep the drone.  Once again Trump committed a stupid, dangerous, and unjustifiable error which was contrary to the best interests of the US.  Trump is far too stupid, dangerous, and uncaring to be in any public position of trust.  Numerous people have written at length about Trump's degree of danger, psychological instability, probable diagnosis as an Antisocial Personality Disorder.  Psychological expert Sam Vaknin studied more than 600 hours of Donald Trump's public appearances and concluded that Trump is highly dangerous.  The Electoral College could not take an action that could be more dangerous than voting to support Donald Trump as President.  

And that brings me back to French Toast as a metaphor for political activism.  I realized as I was cooking French Toast this morning that I, and every other intelligent citizen of America should work every day, for so long as Donald Trump may be near the White House, to force the government officials such as the Electoral College, the United States Congress, and The Joint Chiefs of Staff to prevent Donald Trump from occupying ((I use the military definition of occupy.)  the White House.  His likely connection to Russia and Putin borders on treason and may well be treasonous. Donald Trump also publicly confessed to sex crimes, has been sued by more than 4,000 innocent victims because he won't pay his bills, was sued and managed to settle or stop a case involving the alleged violent rape of a thirteen year old, payed $25million to settle the Trump University Case, and has more than 75 pending civil suits as we speak. At this time, Senator Mitch McConnell and other members of the Republican congressional leadership are refusing to empower a bipartisan select committee to investigate the Russian hacking despite requests to do so from both Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator John McCain to do so.  This refusal is clearly an attempt to sweep the crimes under the rug and allow Trump to assume the presidency.  Donald Trump is unfit to hold any public office. Donald Trump must be held responsible for all his criminal actions, past, present, and future.  Indict, impeach, and imprison Donald Trump! 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

William Howard Cohen, Poet, Professor, Hero

William Howard Cohen was unique.  He was one of the most outspoken, brilliant, and weird men I have ever known.  I first met Bill Cohen in the summer of 1966 when I was attending Upward Bound on the campus of Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, KY.  Bill Cohen, as he generally preferred to be known, despite his doctoral degree, taught English and Humanities at ALC.  He was probably more broadly known in Knott County than many other professors at the school because of his outspoken nature, his unique differences with most of the locals and even the other ALC staff.  Bill was a constantly moving, constantly talking, highly opinionated man.  Looking back on Bill through the lens of twenty years experience in the mental health field, it is my considered professional opinion that Bill Cohen was probably dealing with a diagnosis of Bipolar Affective Disorder, rapid cycling type.  Bill demonstrated most if not all of the symptoms of the diagnosis.  He had rapid, constant, pressured speech, flight of ideas, grandiosity, distractibility, and was a constant ball of sometimes unfocused energy.  Bill Cohen was also a great teacher and knew American literature, poetry, and Haiku cover to cover, front to back, upside down and sideways.  

William Howard Cohen was an accomplished poet and wrote several books of poetry during his life.  They included "The Hill Way Home Poems From The Appalachian Highlands" which was published during the time he was teaching at Alice Lloyd College.  This book probably represents his best work in more traditional poetic styles.  

He also wrote and published "Mexico '68 The New World Of Man: Poems From The Olympic Games".  This book consisted of poems which Bill wrote while he was attending the Olympic Games in Mexico City as a cultural delegate from the US.  I knew Bill at that time and I will never forget how excited he was to learn that he had been chosen to represent the country at the Olympics.  He was even more excited when he returned.  I will always remember an incident which happened in one of his humanities classes after his return.  His flight of ideas was running rampant that particular day and he was still incredibly excited about his recent trip.  Literally in the middle of a lecture about Greek architecture, he said "Doric column are...Man, you should have seen Jim Ryun run down that track."  

William Howard Cohen also wrote "Conversations With Albert Einstein And Other Poems From The Einstein Year" which was published in 1979 after he had left Alice Lloyd College.  Sadly, I have never read this book since I learned of it too late to buy a new copy and now it is usually priced outside my range on Internet based used book sites.  But I know without reading the book that it will reflect Bill's fascination with genius and high achieving people in general.  

After leaving Alice Lloyd College, he also edited a book of children's poetry called "Under Enchanted Boughs: Children's Poems From The Duval County Schools" which was a project of the Jacksonville Children's Museum Outreach Program.  I have also never seen a copy of this book at somewhat reasonable prices on Internet used book websites.

During his time in Southern Illinois, William Howard Cohen also published another book of poetry entitled "A House In The Country Poems From Southern Illinois".  I have not read this book either and have never been able to find a copy for sale when I have searched for it.  Considering that it was published very early in his career, I suspect it will be primarily composed of more traditionally styled poetry much like the poems in "The Hill Way Home...".  

William Howard Cohen was an international expert on Haiku, the well-known form of Japanese poetry, and his best known book was called "To Walk In Seasons An Introduction To Haiku".   This book was published in 1972 after he left Knott County but I am certain that he was working on it at the time he was teaching in Kentucky.  I still find Haiku experts writing about and referring to this book online nearly fifty years after it was published.  In fact, as I was writing this post, I found a blog post about the book by a poet and professor named Don Wentworth.   I also recently responded to another Haiku expert's piece about "To Walk In Seasons..." in which the writer attempted to critique the book quite negatively.  But I am sure that the Bill Cohen I knew would have laughed out loud to know that his little book was still being criticized by experts nearly half a century after he wrote it.  

I also just found another memoir piece from a former student of Bill's, Dan Kenneth Phillips, at this web address.   This piece discusses having been a student of Bill's and his nickname, "The Blue Noodle", the origin of which no one seems to know.   Thank you, Dan, for remembering Bill just as fondly as I and many other former proteges do. 

Shortly after I met Bill Cohen, he took me to a statewide poetry gathering at Western Kentucky University which was flattering.  I had been chosen to travel to a writer's gathering in the company and under the mentorship of an internationally recognized poet.  That was a lot for a teenager from Dema, Ky.  At that time, it was probably as far as I had ever been away from my home on Beaver Creek.  Bill arranged for us to stay in a university guest house and I remember being highly impressed to be in a bedroom with matching, fancy, delicate furniture and wall paper with border added.  It was a trip that taught me a lot about both poetry and William Howard Cohen.  I enjoyed it greatly.  At that meeting, I also met former Kentucky Poet Laureate Joy Bale for the first time.

Bill Cohen also loved and collected art.  I do not know that he owned any art which had serious value but he had good taste and his home, which was provided by Alice Lloyd College, was filled by paintings, sculptures, and mobiles from his travels around the country and the world.  I always remember a carved sandstone statue which he kept on a set of steps which divided the two levels of the house.

During his time at Alice Lloyd College, William Howard Cohen would become an outstanding and outspoken advocate against strip mining.  He would use some of his spare time to join and to initiate protests at strip mine sites.  He would often lie down in front of coal trucks leaving strip mines in an attempt to stop production.  When he did this, Bill always carried an American flag and a Bible which he placed on his chest as he lay on his back in the middle of the haul roads.  People would ask him if he wasn't afraid of being run over by a coal truck and his answer was always the same: "I know these mountain boys.  They might run over a little Jew from Florida but they won't run over the flag and the Bible."  It turned out he was always correct in that assessment.  During this period, the Louisville Courier Journal featured Bill in a Sunday Magazine article and he was mentioned in several other stories in the paper.  It is my belief that his activism against strip mining played a large part in his being fired by Alice Lloyd College.  Many of the early graduates and supporters of the college had become wealthy and were involved in the coal industry.  There is no doubt such people would have resisted having such a committed advocate of environmentalism on the faculty and their financial support of the institution would have been unlikely.  Alice Lloyd College eventually fired William Howard Cohen and he moved on to the Jacksonville, Florida, area.  Kentucky lost a fine professor, a better than average poet, and one of the most outstanding advocates for environmentalism in the state at the time.  In my opinion, William Howard Cohen was just as important an opponent of strip mining as Preacher Dan Gibson or Widow Ollie Combs who spent Thanksgiving of 1964 in the Knott County Jail because of her opposition to strip mining.  William Howard Cohen is a fine example of that group of non-native residents of Appalachia who became heroes for the region.  

William Howard Cohen died in the Gainesville, Florida area in 2007.  If anyone reading this knows of his exact burial location or the disposition of his body, and any other information about Bill Cohen, I would love to know about it.  I also do not own a photograph of Bill and I would love to have one if anyone has one to scan and share.  I would post it on this blog post and give full photographer credit.  "Baruch Dayan Emet, Blessed is the true judge."  Rest In Peace, Bill!  

Bill Cohen was probably the first Jewish person I ever met although he was not a practicing Jew at the time I knew him.  It is possible if he had not been living more than 100 miles from the nearest synagogue he might have practiced more diligently.  But he had no qualms about telling anyone in Eastern Kentucky of the  late 1960's that he was a Jew.  He was always honest and outspoken about everything he was, did, or believed.  I will always cherish having known and been able to learn from Bill Cohen.  

Here is a link to the obituary of William Howard Cohen which was located and provided by Ray Turner.  Thanks, Ray!

Friday, December 16, 2016

"The Bible Women" In Knott County KY Schools

My taste in music is quite varied although my general favorite is Bluegrass which is followed closely by classic country, classic rock and roll, jazz, blues, and classical.  I also enjoy accordion music which is odd for a die hard fan of Bluegrass.  I attribute my enjoyment of accordion music to an experience when I was in grade school at Salisbury Elementary which I have written about in two other posts.  I was in grade school from 1957 to 1964 at a time when the US Supreme Court had not taken a clear and appropriate stand in defense of the separation of church and state clause from the US Constitution.    During my entire time in elementary school, once a month every grade school in Knott County had a half day visit from two women we referred to as "The Bible Women".  They were affiliated with Camp Nathaniel in Emmalena, KY, as well as a Christian nonprofit called Scripture Memory Mountain Mission.  Let me state unequivocally from the outset that I strongly support separation of church and state no matter how much I enjoyed the "Bible Women".

Accordion Photo by Hobgoblin Music

We students always referred to these two women as Miss Eva and Miss Heibert.  I believe that Miss Eva was actually Eva Slone Lodgaard and I have no idea what Miss Heibert's name actually was.  If any of my readers can set me straight about the names I would appreciate it if you would send me an e-mail at or in a comment on this post.  I believe we always referred to Miss Eva by that appellation because someone assumed that we could never pronounce her Scandinavian last name.  Miss Heibert played the accordion and Miss Eva always told a Bible story using a felt board.  For those of you who have never seen a felt board, it was a device which used static electricity to tell stories using a felt cover over a board on an easel and numerous felt cutout figures of people, buildings, livestock, and anything else which was pertinent to the story.   Miss Heibert would play and the students would sing along with several hymns and Miss Eva would tell her Bible story.  As a part of the work of Scripture Memory Mountain Mission, they also ran a program of Bible verse memorization that could win students a free week at summer camp at Camp Nathaniel.  This program was an escalating rote memorization of assigned Bible verses.  It began with about a half dozen verses which would win the student a New Testament and the assignments grew longer as students demonstrated from month to month that they could remember sufficient verses.  I never got much farther than the New Testament even though I had an excellent memory.  I suspect that my heart wasn't in the effort and I was more interested in many other things ranging from reading other books to catching fish, frogs, or flying squirrels.  A few students did win the trip to Camp Nathaniel each year if they worked at the task.  

The "Bible Women" gave us a chance to have a half day out of our normal routine, exposed us to an instrument that most of us had never seen before, and gave us exposure to people from outside our normal circle.  I do not choose to detract from the usefulness of learning the Bible but I strongly oppose any form of religion being taught in school.  The US Constitution is clear as a bell about the separation of church and state.  It should be absolute and inviolate for all eternity.  One of the most important things I remember about these women is their dedication to their work.  Salisbury Elementary was located about a half mile off KY Route 7 on Salisbury Branch and there was not a good car bridge at that time for crossing Beaver Creek.  In low water and good weather, it was possible to ford the creek, drive a half mile up the C & O Railroad tracks and up the hollow.  In high water or snow, you could only get there by walking across a swing bridge, up the railroad, across a trestle, and up the hollow.  But I do not clearly recall a time when these two women failed to appear on their appointed day if school was in session.  They would park their car at the swinging bridge, load up with the accordion, felt board, easel, and various and sundry other items they needed for that day's presentation.  Then they would walk the walk no matter how foul the weather.  

Miss Eva and Miss Heibert lived in a house they rented from a man named Elmer Morrison which was about two miles from the school.  To my knowledge, neither of them ever married and both worked as missionaries in Eastern Kentucky all of their lives.  They also had a small lending library of Christian based books which they loaned to students who were responsible enough to return them.  You could borrow a couple of books and trade them for two more on their next monthly visit.  They would also loan books during the summer to students who were able to get to their home.  I borrowed books from them in summer for several years by walking the distance from my house to theirs.  I enjoyed the opportunity to read any kind of book and appreciated their generosity but my primary focus was not on the religious aspects of the books.  Let me say I am glad this women were a part of my childhood.  Let me also say that I am extremely glad that the US Supreme Court decided in McCollum vs Board Of Education District 71 that "religious instruction in public schools a violation of the establishment clause and therefore unconstitutional".  It was the correct decision the day it was written and it will always be the correct decision based on the Constitution.  

Luke 20: 25 And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas In An Appalachian Two Room School

I have mentioned in passing in the blog that I attended a two room school in Knott County Kentucky when I was in grade school.  It was the Salisbury Elementary School located at Dema, KY, about an eighth of a mile up Salisbury Branch just off Kentucky Route 7 on which I have spent most of my life.  I was reminded of Christmas at Salisbury Elementary School on two occasions today.  My wife, Candice, and I were at one of her regular physical therapy appointments and her physical therapy assistant asked what kinds of Christmas carols we enjoy.  The three of  us did a terrible job of singing at least parts of one or two while Candice was doing her therapy.  On the way to the hospital for the appointment, we had also been listening to the Faron And Scott Show on WSGS Radio 101.1FM which I have written about on this blog before.  They were playing Christmas carols and I heard "Bluegrass & White Snow" by Patty Loveless which is an awesome Bluegrass Christmas song about life in Appalachia.  

These two events combined to remind me of my childhood at Salisbury Elementary School which I attended for seven years since I had been double promoted from first to third grade.  At Christmas each year, the two teachers, Rita Mae Moore and Emily Martin, would stage a Christmas show which consisted to two one act Christmas plays, readings of several Christmas poems, and group singing of several of the classic Christmas carols which were popular in the 1950's and 1960's.  For about two or three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we would rehearse for an hour or two a day in preparation for the event.  All our family members were invited to attend but many of those less fortunate parents, or those who could not get off work would not be present.  Usually one of my parents would attend while the other stayed home to run the store.  Every year one of the older students whom the teachers deemed to have a better memory would be selected to read "'Twas The Night Before Christmas".   A few other classic Christmas poems would be read and several Christmas Carols would be sung by the entire group and any of the visitors who knew them.  That list usually included "Jingle Bells", "Silent Night", "Away In A Manger", "We Three Kings" and a few others.  

We also had a gift exchange based on drawing names.  A few students would always be too poor to participate and a few others would also be from families of very limited means but draw names anyway and bring the usual box of chocolate covered cherries which I believe cost about fifty cents in those days.  I realize now that it was the thought that counted.  But in those days, most students hated to know that their Christmas gift from school would be "cherry candy".  

Chocolate Covered Cherries "Cherry Candy" Photo by

Another unique feature of attending school in Eastern Kentucky in those years was that every student in every elementary school in several counties surrounding Knott County would receive a small gift from the Caney Creek Community Center which was a non-profit agency affiliated with Caney College which is now known as Alice Lloyd College.  These gifts would usually consist of a small age appropriate toy and a small bag of hard candy.  The gifts had been donated, in most cases, by wealthy donors from the urban northeast who no doubt believed they had done a great deal of good for the underprivileged children of Appalachia.  In another post at another time, I will address my personal opinions of all the missionary do good work which as been inflicted on Appalachia and Appalachian people over the last hundred plus years.  To continue the post about Christmas, at noon on the last day of school before Christmas vacation began, the show would be on.  

A piece of cotton clothes line would be strung across a section of one of the classrooms and some borrowed white sheets would be strung on the line as makeshift stage curtains.  A teacher or older student would be selected to act as master or mistress of ceremonies.  They would introduce each of the readers of poetry and the two plays.  A small group of students who it was presumed had some degree of musical talent would act as a facsimile of a choir and the audience would sing along.  At the end of the show, the gifts would be passed out and at the end of that activity Christmas vacation would begin.  It is wonderful to remember those days but I would not want to live them over.  I do regret that I do not have a photograph of Salisbury Elementary School to add to this post and the earlier general post I wrote about the school.  If any reader does have such a photograph that you would allow to be posted to this blog, please contact me at and I will give full photographer credit in the blog.  Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!  

Monday, December 12, 2016

November 8, 2016--"A Date Which Will Live In Infamy"

In the election of November 8, 2016, significantly less than a majority of the voters who went to the polls in America, with the help of the electoral college system, managed to elect Donald Trump to the presidency. Based on the latest, most complete vote counts about 2.7million more people actually voted for Hillary Clinton than for Trump.  For the fifth time in American history, the losing candidate, Hillary Clinton, won more votes than the eventual winner.  Donald Trump, a Fascist, a self confessed sex offender, and a career criminal was elected.  Today, more than month after the election, hundreds of thousands of Americans are protesting in a variety of ways all over the country.  In another clear indicator of his bent toward Fascism, Donald Trump has tweeted that these are "professional protests".  We are at the beginning of the worst period in American history.

The CIA has confirmed that there is significant evidence of election hacking by the Kremlin in support of Trump.  Trump is attempting to appoint a Secretary of State, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, who has significant earlier ties to Russia, Putin, and the Kremlin.  The senate, based on urging from Republican John McCain, is beginning an investigation of the Russian connections to the hacking.  Donald Trump, as he always does when questioned or criticized, is denying the validity of the CIA claims of hacking.  That response is exactly what any rational expert would expect from a guilty party.  The other candidates Trump has chosen for cabinet posts are a Who's Who of Right Wing Radical extremists, former Republican failures, and people with little or no experience in government service.  Nearly every candidate for a key position has expressed some desire to destroy, defame, or hamper the agency Trump has chosen them to direct.  The most experienced member of the group appears to be Elaine Chao, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who served as labor secretary under President George W. Bush and deputy secretary of transportation under President George H.W. Bush.  However, her father is a well known Chinese billionaire who owns a large fleet of super freighters all of which have been built by suspected slave labor.  Her consideration appears to be a nod to the Chinese bankers who are purported to hold heavy loans against Trump's businesses.  Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama is Trump's choice to be attorney general.  In 1986, Sessions was denied a federal judgeship due to a history of racism.  Trump has chosen Andy Puzder, a billionaire restaurant executive as secretary of labor.  In the past, Puzder has consistently railed against the minimum wage and claimed that it is unnecessary and unfair to employers.  Betsey DeVos, a member of the DeVos family of Amway pyramid scheme fame, has been chosen as secretary of education.  She is an advocate for charter schools and has a long history of opposition to the actions of the Department of Education.  She has frequently called for the abolition of the department which she has been chosen to run.  Trump has also selected Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency.  Pruitt's claim to fame is that he has spent most of his legal career fighting the actions of the Environmental Protection Agency and has largely been responsible for the lack or regulation of the gas and oil fracking which has caused the recent epidemic of earthquakes in his home state.

This list of nominees for cabinet positions clearly shows that Trump has a plan to destroy much of the regulatory nature of American government, to abolish several key departments of government, to deny constitutional rights to workers, and to damage the federal government as much as possible.  If these nominees are actually confirmed, and most of them will be, the country is headed into a very dark and uncertain future.  It is my belief that if the Democratic party controlled as many as 45 seats in the Senate that enough rational Republicans would join them to stop several of the nominees from being confirmed.  But the Republican majority in the senate, which leans heavily to the extreme right, is highly likely to confirm all these extremists and an era of active destruction of the federal government will begin on January 20, 2017.  God Help Us All if it does. 

The quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt, our greatest president, which I have chosen to use as the title of this post, came in his speech to congress in which he asked for a declaration of war against Japan after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  That quote came at one one of the darkest times in American history.  Today is just as dark a time for very different reasons.  The voters of America and Appalachia made a horrible mistake in this election.  Donald Trump has a thousand factors which make him unfit to be president and not a single qualifying factor.  Donald Trump used the very same platform in his election campaign which Adolph Hitler used to gain control of Germany.  In a Newsweek article from September of 2016, writer Maiken Umbach, addresses the similarities between Hitler and Trump.  In that article, Umbach points out a significant number of glaring similarities between Trump and Hitler.  

In one of the most important paragraphs of the article, Umbach points out that:
"Neither Hitler nor Trump campaign on specific policies, beyond a few slogans. Instead, both promise a new vision of leadership. They portray the existing political systems as fundamentally corrupt, incompetent, and, most importantly, unable to generate decisive action in the face of pressing problems."

The article goes on to point out how both Trump and Hitler use "highly edited accounts of their personal histories" to gain favor with electorates.  Donald Trump refused to disclose his tax returns in the election process claiming that he was under audit. A former head of the IRS publicly pointed out that a person under audit has every right to publicly disclose their taxes during the audit.  There are several theories about why Trump did not disclose his taxes including: 
  1. that he was not nearly as wealthy as he has always claimed;
  2. that he had not paid taxes which was proven in the one years taxes which were released;
  3. that the taxes would show that he had illegal business dealings with Russia, China, Japan, and Cuba.  
Whatever the actual reasons are that the taxes were never disclosed, it is readily apparent that Trump is  hiding a great deal and none of what he is hiding is to his advantage if it were disclosed.  Also, throughout the campaign, only two world leaders ever actively promoted Trump, Kim Jung Un and Alexander Putin, the two worst dictators in the world.  Both obviously had their own reasons for doing so.  Most intelligent people believe that the most likely reason is that they are aware of Trump's incompetence and are betting that he is unable to handle the duties of the presidency.  There is no doubt that this is correct.  During the campaign, the White House stated that there was evidence that Russian hackers had hacked Democratic records in order to assist Trump.  Why would they do that?  The reason most people give is that Trump is heavily in debt to Russia and Putin.  A new theory has been put forth recently that Putin is also seeking revenge against Hillary Clinton for her prior diplomatic successes which have served to impede Putin's aggressive tendencies in several countries. 

In a Time article from August 2016, author Jeff Nesbit points out that:
"Russian intelligence agencies have allegedly recently digitally broken into four different American organizations that are affiliated either with Hillary Clinton or the Democratic Party since late May. All of the hacks appear designed to benefit Donald Trump’s presidential aspirations in one fashion or another."

Immediately after the election, a senior Russian official admitted that there had been ongoing contact between  Russia and the Trump campaign during the  election.  This is a clear violation of the Logan Act, as was Trump's contact with Mexico prior to the election.  The Logan Act prohibits anyone who is not an official of the government from attempting to engage in foreign diplomacy.  But the possible violation of the Logan Act is the least harmful possible reason for contact between Trump and Russia.  The more ominous reason would be collusion based on the debt and illegal business contacts prior to his campaign.  

Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek has also written about illegal interaction prior to the campaign between Trump and Cuba and in his article he alleges that Trump violated the embargo of Cuba. The average, uneducated reader should know that major news organizations do not write and publish such articles as the three quoted above simply for the amusement of the authors and publishers.  Due to the possibility of litigation, they work diligently to be able to prove the information in the stories they print.  The bottom line is that there is far more than sufficient evidence that Donald Trump has frequently and recklessly dealt with foreign countries in clear violations of American laws.  Trump's willingness to violate law and common decency is not the simple kind of violations which prior public figures have been known to do.  It shows a blatant, conscious, and egregious form of behavior which was intended to benefit Trump, flout both American and international law, and borders on treason.  If Trump colluded with Putin to hack and alter election results, that action would clearly constitute treason.  

There are also a significant number of pending legal actions against Donald Trump which clearly indicate his general unworthiness to hold any public office.  The worst of these is the Trump University Case if we speak from a business sense.  This case is a fraud case under federal law which seems to clearly point out that "Trump University" was a scheme to defraud thousands of would be millionaires of their hard earned money while giving them nothing for their cash and effort.  Trump reportedly agreed to pay the plaintiffs in the Trump University case a sum of $25million to settle the case.  There is also a civil suit arising from an alleged child rape when the victim was only thirteen.  This case has been filed, dropped, and refiled and dropped yet again.  When legal cases are handled in this manner, it is sometimes an indicator that the plaintiff has been either untruthful or paid off.  We will probably never know the exact answers in this situation but it is highly unusual for a political candidate to get any votes after having been accused of a sex crime.  Donald Trump has been accused and has even admitted on tape to having committed sex crimes.  He even seems to be proud of his crimes.  

But these high profile cases are only the tip of the Donald Trump legal iceberg.  There are roughly seventy five other pending legal cases against Donald Trump for a plethora of reasons.  In the previous link, US News details these cases and the legal issues surrounding them.  There is also a lurid prior legal history of Donald Trump refusing to pay just debts with nearly 4,000 suits having been filed against him.

Donald Trump is clearly unfit to hold any public office of even the lowest importance.  His assumption of the presidency should instill terror in the heart of any rational American.  November 8, 2016, is "a date which will live in infamy".  

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Ken Hechler September 20, 1914--December 10, 2016

Ken Hechler Campaigning Photo by Charleston Gazette-Mail

Today is a sad day in West Virginia, America, and the world. Ken Hechler has died last night, December 10, 2016, at 102. Ken was the oldest living former member of congress, former speech writer for Harry Truman, professor at Marshall University, former WV Secretary of State, tireless political activist, and loyal Yellow Dog Democrat.

Ken Hechler Photographer Unknown

I suppose I first became aware of Ken Hechler about 1973 when I was connected to the Southern Appalachian Circuit of Antioch College.  At that time, Ken was nearing the end of an eighteen year term in the US Congress from West Virginia.   He would go on to serve sixteen years as the secretary of state of West Virginia and ran his last political race at the age of 96 in 2010.  He was a diligent and fearless voice of liberalism, environmentalism, and rational politics as long as he was physically able and finally married at the age of 99 after a long life as a confirmed bachelor.  

Ken is perhaps the best example of a group of people I refer to as Heroes In Appalachia.  By that term, I mean those people who are not natives of Appalachia but live and work in the area for the good of the region and its people. I differentiate Heroes In Appalachia from Appalachian Heroes who are natives of the region. Ken Hechler was and always will be a hero to hundreds of thousands of West Virginians and Appalachians.  When I was working as a door to door salesman in West Virginia in the late 1980's, I loved to work the heads of isolated hollows both because of the nature of the people and the fact that other salesmen often avoided those kinds of places with poor quality dirt and gravel roads and houses that sometimes seemed too far apart.  I remember dozens of times when I would pull into the yard of an isolated home several miles from a blacktop road and hear a story triggered by my visit about the time Ken Hechler "drove all the way up here in that little red Jeep".  During his political life, Ken always drove red Jeeps which were painted with political slogans and were widely known as his personal signature.  Those Jeeps, several of which he drove to the end of their days, were usually blessed with his favorite political slogan, "Ken Hechler YOUR Servant In Congress".  He campaigned tirelessly even at times he was securely in office.  He spent his periods away from Washington working to strengthen and maintain his relationship with the people of West Virginia.  

Ken Hechler Photo by West Virginia Metro News/WSAZ News Staff

That work was warmly received and repaid with love, respect, and appreciation from the people of West Virginia and Appalachia.  I regret that I cannot remember every story I ever heard on some porch in the head of some hollow in Logan, Boone, Lincoln, Mingo, Wayne, or Wyoming Counties about what Ken Hechler had done personally to make life slightly better for that particular family.  I heard stories about how he arranged to have a military member brought home for the funeral of a parent, sibling, or grandparent.  I heard stories about how he assisted dozens of disabled coal miners win their Black Lung Benefits.  And I heard stories about how he simply accepted a family's invitation to "set down and have supper with us".  

Ken Hechler had been raised in Roslyn, NY, on Long Island in a Republican family.  He was educated at Swarthmore College and Columbia University.  He held a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia.  He was originally hired to teach at Princeton University but chose to change his life dramatically by agreeing to teach at Marshall University.  He was an eastern intellectual who could have avoided Appalachia for all of his life.  Instead he chose to devote his life to Appalachian West Virginia in a way that leaves no doubt that his commitment was total and unyielding for his entire life.  Ken Hechler is a shining example of that group of people who have come to Appalachia of their own free will, devoted their lives to the betterment of the region, and done so without any evidence of condescension or the mistaken belief that they were better than the natives.  Ken Hechler was a remarkable man who life should always be remembered and revered by all Appalachians.  

Ken was among a small group of military personnel chosen to interview and interrogate Nazi leaders after WWII ended.  He was a trusted and productive member of the Truman Administration.  He wrote several highly respected historical books.  Ken Hechler could have chosen to live his life in a very different manner in very different locales.  His choice will always be a blessing to West Virginia and a shining portion of West Virginia history. 

I will never forget June 22, 1992, the day after I married my wife, Candice, at New River Gorge National Park. We spent our wedding night in Charleston and toured the WV Capitol before leaving for Skyline Drive and coastal VA for our honeymoon. I took Candice by Ken's office to show her a photo of Mother Jones which Ken kept hanging for many years in the lobby. It had been moved to the interior hallway and the receptionist allowed us to step into the hall to view it. Ken came down the hall, introduced himself, and invited us into his private office where he spent nearly half an hour talking about many things to two total strangers who did not vote in WV. He told us a great deal about Bill Clinton and how much he believed in him and respected him. He was absolutely correct about Bill Clinton and everything else he told us that day. I will always treasure having spent that time with Ken along with all the brave fights he made for a better West Virginia, Appalachia, and America, all the great books he wrote, and the wonderful, liberal, activist life he led well into his nineties. America could use 538 women and men just like Ken in congress today. Ken Hechler's death has left a large vacancy in Appalachian politics which will be difficult for anyone to fill at the same level at which Ken always functioned.  Godspeed Ken!

The link below is for Ken Hechler's obituary in the Charleston Gazette.