THE COLLECTOR by James Merritt

THE COLLECTOR by James Merritt

Long after the apocalypse, the pandemics and zombies had come and gone; the nuclear bombs detonating in their bunkers poisoning the ground and water…humankind survived.

Fifteen years after the last piece of toilet paper went extinct in the deep woods on a dark night, an old man walked into a decaying department store. This was a rare occasion as the human population had dwindled to a mere 42,000 worldwide, and a mere six hundred in the United States…or what it was formerly known as.

The store being raided by both mice and men was a mere shell. Bones of humans and animals alike littered the store from front to back from the battles and the struggles to survive all lost within these walls.

The old man chuckled at the stupidity of it all as the skulls crunched under his feet. He imagined he could tell the difference between the bones of the dead, the undead, and the animal inhabitants of the great walmartian graveyard. Being alone so long, his audible hallucinations made him hear the angry cries of the mad shoppers trying to buy the meaningless trinkets for the pointless holidays.

Climbing over a pile of carts that once held TVS, Furbees, and Tickle Me Elmos, he spotted his prey. The reason he had traveled the wastelands. The speck of humanity no one cared to raid, or horde…the phone cards and gift cards. These were his dearest prizes. He filled his semi- quickly with all the store had. While the sun was visible through the toxic clouds, before the creatures came hunting for him. He shoveled a few bodies into the flames on his steam engine and went off to the next place. Year after year, store after store. Across the country, he collected the plastic prizes. He drove on the power of flame and death until he had fulfilled his quota. A mountain of plastic cards once worth billions, now worthless to all life, save his own. When not on a GC expedition, he build himself a home with real plastic walls.

One night after too much wine drank out of a fairly putrid skull, the formula came to him as if completed by the gods, his eureka moment, given to him during a sex dream. The thing he had been pondering since the troll took office.

The way to escape. He immediately began and finished twelve years later on his eighty-second birthday a ship powered by the greed of man. A ship powered by GCs would take him beyond the stars. Sadly, he died of exhaustion once the shuttle left the atmosphere. But the auto pilot took over, launching itself outside the Milky Way, past the viewable galaxies and to the very edge of space itself. The last GC breaking down into molecular power as the ship crashed into the barrier of flat space into whatever lies beneath and beyond.

[James Merritt writes short material bordering on science fiction–futuristic and the macabre. He lives in Maryland. James is a teacher, caretaker, adventurer and writer. A published collection of his work can be ordered from Amazon.com]

WE NEED A CLEARER DEFINITION OF “FAITH” by L. Milton Hankins

WE NEED A CLEARER DEFINITION OF “FAITH” by L. Milton Hankins

In some ways, faith is a simple concept; in others, it’s a rather complicated, obscure word, especially for Bible translators.

The most famous quotation regarding “faith” comes from Hebrews 11:1 (New International Version): “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Then, it is translated in the New American Standard Version: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The second version is closer to the King James Version.

In the KJV, “faith” is not “being sure” or “assurance,” but it is the “substance of things hoped for” and “the evidence of things not seen.” The word “substance” (in English) most generally refers to things that are real and solid.

Today, most believers do not get this deeply invested in a word like “faith.” One says, “What is your faith” meaning, what particular religious persuasion do you follow? If you say “Presbyterian,” for example, the one who asks the question can make the immediate assumption that you believe, to some degree, in predestination. If you say “Assembly of God,” for example, they might immediately assume that you are more charismatic and may, for example, practice glossolalia. If you respond “Baptist,” then it is generally assumed you do not believe in infant baptism and are heavily invested in missionary efforts (of the Baptist variety).

H. L. MENCKEN, AMERICAN JOURNALIST

The American journalist and satirist H. L. Mencken, one of the most influential American writers and prose stylists of the early 20th century once said, “Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.”

So, if someone says they have “faith,” what do they mean specifically? It’s hard to say, but, we can be sure they have no more idea what the word implies or means than anyone else. Frankly, to say, “I have faith,” is a vague, obscure and unintelligible assertion.

Likely, if you engage a person in a discussion about faith and what it means, the discussion will probably conclude with one of the aforementioned expressions from the New Testament, or, an ad hominem argument (attacking the person as opposed to arguing the concept).

It is truly astounding the number of times the ambiguous term “faith” enters into our conversation.

I’d say, most of us have faith that the sun will rise in the east in the morning, despite the fact that the classical meaning of the term seems to denote something that is neither particularly certain nor with any solid evidence.

I contend that talking about faith in our day and time is an exercise in futility. When it comes to our religious affiliations, creeds, and personal persuasions, we would be better off talking about what we believe to be true in our own individual minds and avoid making general assertions about such an indecisive word as “faith.”

We are, I believe, living in post-denominational times with a rapidly declining interest in religion, per se. What we need is a new, solid definition of “faith” that will meet the needs of our modern ways of thinking.

[L. Milton Hankins is the editor and publisher of Columnist with a View. He is a weekly op-ed columnist for the Huntington, WV Herald-Dispatch. His latest book is “A Sensible Theology for Thinking People.” It is available through Amazon.com and local bookstores by order.]

ACCOMPLISHMENTS DO NOT MATCH THE BOASTS by Milt Hankins

ACCOMPLISHMENTS DO NOT MATCH THE BOASTS by Milt Hankins

We’re rapidly reaching the end of 2017–fourteen months since Donald J. Trump was elected president of the United States. According to Mr. Trump he has accomplished more during his first year than any of his predecessors. I did hear that correctly, didn’t I?

I have been wracking my brain for a way to respond to Trump’s ardent–no, die-hard and delusional–supporters.

TRUMP’S WALL

The wall along the Mexican border? Well, it was the grand promise made at every Trump rally. Trump always added, “And mark my words, Mexico will pay for the wall!” Thank goodness, we don’t have the wall, and Mexico hasn’t paid for it.

According to Mr. Trump, the Affordable Care Act was doomed. It would be dead on his first day in office. But, try as they will, the Republican Congress has failed to give the president a bill repealing and replacing “Obamacare.” The ACA is still very much alive–and working!

I recall, Trump promising to give the middle class a tax break. He called it “tax reform.” Congress did have a tax bill on his desk by the end of 2017…a tax bill few people read or understand! Moreover, it won’t be a “tax break for the middle class.” If you have done your homework, you know the “promised” tax reform is a giveaway to the rich at the expense of the middle class.

Candidate Trump talked a lot about rebuilding the country’s infrastructure. At a Cincinnati rally, according to CNN Money, he said “We will create the first class infrastructure our country and our people deserve. It’s time to rebuild our country to bring back our jobs.” So far I haven’t heard much more about rebuilding infrastructure.

Although some inconsequential spending bills have passed through the Congress during the year, just hours before the Trump budget reached the Hill, Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex) was quoted, saying “Almost every president’s budget proposal that I know of is basically dead on arrival.”

The president has twice attempted immigration bans, i.e. disallowing Muslim refugees to enter the country. Both times his plans were stymied by federal judges. Again, thank goodness!

President Trump is apparently confused about the differences between executive orders and legislation. He once asserted “no president has passed more legislation,” conceding once earlier this year that he trails Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom he notes “had a major Depression to handle.” He claimed “to have bested all of his predecessors in turning bills into law. We’ve signed more bills–and I’m talking about through the legislature–than any president, ever.” Mr. Trump said at a Made in America event at the White House.

Trump did manage to appoint a conservative justice to the Supreme Court. That would be a plus if it were not that his appointee only replaced Antonin Scalia, one of the most conservative justices ever!

On one point President Trump has been extremely successful. Clearly, he has exceeded all of his predecessors as the most boastful liar ever to occupy the Oval Office.

[This article first appeared in the Huntington, WV Herald-Dispatch, December 25, 2017. Milt Hankins lives with his wife Deborah and their furry buddy, Jose, in Catlettsburg, Kentucky. Milt is a weekly contributor to the Huntington paper and Deborah is involved with the local Resistance movement.]

 

GINA STANLEY TALKS ABOUT EMPLOYMENT, THE “FUHRER PRINCIPLE,” TAX RETURNS AND THE DANGEROUS COMBINATION OF TRUMP AND NUKES

GINA STANLEY TALKS ABOUT EMPLOYMENT, THE “FUHRER PRINCIPLE,” TAX RETURNS AND THE DANGEROUS COMBINATION OF TRUMP AND NUKES

If we can believe anything that the Trump Labor Department says, the unemployment rate is 4.1%. The labor participation rate is only 62%, meaning that only 58% of all Americans are employed as the term is defined. The labor force is defined as all persons 16 years of age and older who are employed or unemployed (meaning those actively looking for work). Homemakers are not included among those employed so the number has always been skewed.

In any event, the rate was around 66.8% in 1990 and the rate rose to about 67.4% by the end of the Clinton presidency. It has declined since the election of Bush 43. The participation rate declined to 66% by the beginning of the recession and it has declined each year since then. Today, five percent fewer people are working or looking for work than in 2000, making the unemployment rate more like 9% than 4%.

The statistic fails to consider those people who are over qualified for their jobs and under employed as a consequence. Wages have been stagnant for years. I am still waiting for that wealth to trickle down. What can we do? More tax cuts for the “already wealthy” is not the answer. In fact, a tax increase on upper incomes to finance a massive public works project to rebuild our infrastructure is the right prescription. The “already wealthy” don’t care about infrastructure in the rust belt. They don’t live there. [Editor note: They fly right over it!]

The tax cut is estimated to add 1.5 trillion dollars to the deficit. Had Congress given every man, woman and child a direct payment of $1000 ($4000 for a family of four) every year for the next five years, the cost would have been 1.615 trillion dollars (323 million x $5000) and that money could have been taxable if Congress so provided. Would have been far fairer and would have been more stimulative since most people would spend that money on goods and services.


 

ADOLF HITLER

The “Fuhrer Principle” required everyone in Nazi Germany to accept that Hitler had all of the solutions to Germany’s problems and that Hitler was always right. In its most basic form, the “Fuhrer Principle” required that Hitler’s orders must be carried out and that anyone who challenged his orders was betraying Hitler and Germany.


 

Why won’t Trump release his tax returns? We can be sure that the Mueller team has examined them with a microscope by now. I’m guessing that he must own stock in Colt, Remington, Winchester, GE and General Dynamics. His visit to Japan seemed designed to scare the hell out of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (“Shinz” to the trumpster) so that he will buy billions of dollars worth of new weapons from defense contractors.


 

What did the “Orange Moron” have to say about the Texas Church shooter? That the discussion should be about mental health rather than gun control. White guys who are assumed to be non-Muslim always kill because they are crazy. In February of this year the dysfunctional GOP-controlled Congress acted with lightening speed to strike down an Obama era rule that made it more difficult for the mentally ill among us to purchase firearms. Naturally, the “Orange Sycophant” signed the measure into law. Some mental illnesses, like the ones that afflict our commander-in-chief, are impossible to treat. Should we not take the nukes away from him before he harms us all with them?

[Gina Stanley is an attorney. She resides and works in Huntington, West Virginia. She frequently expresses her well-studied, frank, and reasonable opinions on Facebook. We are pleased to have her permission to give her writing wider dissemination through Columnist with a View.]

A SPECIAL PLACE by Ernie Tucker

A SPECIAL PLACE by Ernie Tucker

When I moved to Eastern Kentucky almost half a century ago, I learned early on that no one who lived here could tell me what Eastern Kentucky is; so, over the years I have gradually developed my own ideas…making an honest attempt to lay out in a short essay what I think are the boundaries of Eastern Kentucky.

Approximately one-fourth of the total land area of the state or about thirty-three of Kentucky’s 120 counties fall within the traditional boundaries of “Eastern Kentucky,” though culturally speaking, one could argue that the area may be considerably larger. It contains the largest county in the state, Pike County, where someone is sure to tell you, “If you flatten it out, it’s bigger’n Texas!” 

So, what are these traditional boundaries?

AN OHIO RIVER TUGBOAT

On the north, the busy Ohio River separates Eastern Kentucky from Ohio; while to the northeast, the Big Sandy River and the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy, across which the Hatfield and McCoy feud was fought, form the boundary between Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. Both of these streams are, relatively speaking, small. A teenage youngster could fling a stone over most of their reaches.

To the east and southeast, the Cumberland and Pine Mountain ranges help to define the border with Virginia. To the south is Tennessee, where there is no precise natural border with Eastern Kentucky, while on the west a wide wall of tree-covered hills and hollows known as the Pottsville Escarpment is the only noticeable geographic boundary.

APPROACHING THE “ESCARPMENT”

The Daniel Boone National Forest, which lies within this escarpment region and is featured on many road maps of Kentucky, when extended north to the Ohio River is a good approximation of the traditional western boundary of the region.

Travelers approaching Eastern Kentucky from the west, on I-64 near Morehead, for example, leave what is often called the “Outer Bluegrass” and enter the escarpment country. It is a place of rugged hills broken further by the deep, breathtaking gorges of swift flowing streams such as the Red River, and it appears to be leading into “real” mountains beyond, though that never quite happens. This escarpment leads up to the Cumberland Plateau.

BEAUTIFUL EASTERN KENTUCKY PLATEAU

About two-thirds of Eastern Kentucky lies on this plateau, a region of almost unbroken, though modest, hills–if one compares them to ranges like those in other areas with the Appalachians.

The remaining third of Eastern Kentucky is located, for the most part, in the Cumberland and Pine Mountain area. Black Mountain near the Virginia border, part of the Cumberland range, rises to 4,139 feet and is the highest peak in Kentucky, but it is the exception rather than the rule. The property where this writer lives near Ashland, Kentucky stands barely 800 feet above sea level, but is nonetheless a part of these “highlands.”

Eastern Kentucky is well-known for its fine recreational parks, which include Carter Caves, Greenbo, Jenny Wiley, Cumberland Falls, Kingdom Come, Natural Bridge, Paintsville Lake, Levi Jackson, Grayson Lake, Pine Mountain and Buckhorn Lake–all state resort parks with over-night accommodations, as well as Cumberland Gap National Park. All are quite beautiful and worthy of a visit, with numerous natural streams and man-made lakes, which add to the area’s scenic and recreational value.

So, when the frenzy of the summer vacation season is over, you might want to plan a tour of Eastern Kentucky. While you’re here, get out of the car and take a leisurely stroll down a country lane or down an overgrown path in a remote part of any of the parks. Soak in the beauty of the area and notice the astonishing variety of flora growing at your feet. See if you, too, don’t begin to develop a love for this special place in America!

[Ernie (Ernest Martin) Tucker is a regular contributor to Columnist with a View. He is a retired history professor and continues to reside in his beloved Eastern Kentucky. He is a “man about town” in Ashland, Kentucky and is also available for speaking engagements.]