A Journey Through Four Counties in PA

It has been a few months since I have written anything and I really need to get better at this. Just because I haven’t been writing doesn’t mean I haven’t been on the road. So lets get this thing going.

For many people (especially if you live in the area I do) many people cringe at the words Route 30. Travel on Route 30 through Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties is a nightmare. Four lanes of hell, turning lanes, traffic lights every few feet, tons of traffic, and obviously idiot PA drivers. I avoid the highway as much as possible. However, as you near the eastern edge of Westmoreland County Route 30 changes, it transforms into a peaceful road with great landscapes and very few traffic lights. This part of the highway is more fitting for its original name, the Lincoln Highway.

We will start this blog just outside of Schellsburg, Bedford County. Here there are plenty of rolling green fields and scenic views. When you see the sign that says “Bison Corral” stop in and check it out. You will know you are in the right place if you see the Native American gas pump at the entrance. Depending where the Bison happen to be you may or may not see them here (their fields are located on the opposite side of Lincoln Highway). Make sure you stop inside the gift shop where they sell Bison meat and plenty of Native American items and things to entertain the kiddos. Many of the Native American items are handmade.

Native American Gas Pump
Native American Gas Pump

If you are unable to see the Bison just ask the kind ladies that work the gift shop. They will tell you what field the Bison are in that day and provide you with directions. As a reminder, Bison are very strong powerful animals, for your safety if you stop to see them, please do not go inside the fence. If you have never seen a Bison up close this is a must see location. Just watching them you can see their sheer strength. I stood there for a good 20 minutes just watching these amazing beast. During that time I think I annoyed my boys by repeating the word, “tatanka”, yes a Dances With Wolves reference (I did put my fingers up like horns also).

Bison
Bison Farm in Bedford County, PA

Continuing along in Bedford County and along the Lincoln Highway, in the small town of Manns Choice you will find a building passed by many but the history is known by very few. Today the building sits empty, a unique and interesting building. Last serving as an antiques store, the building was once known as the Best Little Brothel in Pennsylvania. Yes that’s right, at one time it was a whore house. Legend says it was a very popular place and is currently occupied by a few lost spirits.

Best Little Brothel in PA
Best Little Brothel in PA

The building was built in 1777 and served as a hotel. The first floor was the bar area, the second floor was where the higher class working girls had their rooms and the third floor was reserved for the lower class, cheaper ladies of the night.

The story goes a woman with her room on the second floor was providing a man she had an interest in with free “favors”. The woman’s husband had found out and kicked in the door to the room, shooting the male. The woman in the middle of this fled the room and hid in the closest of a neighboring room. Her husband quickly found her and in a rage of anger stabbed her to death. He then took her lifeless body and hung it from the closest door. Many people have reported a dark uneasy feeling when they enter the second floor and neighbors report odd things occur there after dark. While photographing the building I felt as if I was being watched and even had to double take looking at the building thinking I seen someone one the second floor. It was enough of a feeling that I chose not to get closer like I wanted. Maybe next time.

As we continue east on Lincoln Highway, this time near the town of Everett in Bedford County you will come across something that will catch your eye for sure. Located at the entrance to the Down River Golf Course stands a Giant Quarter and I mean giant. The quarter has a 20 foot diameter and weighs nearly 1 ton. The idea and the quarter was made by students of the Bedford County Technical Center. They chose a quarter for the Lincoln Highway project because of George Washington’s strong ties to Bedford County area.

Giant Quarter
Giant Quarter

Before we depart Bedford County lets make one more stop. Located on the outskirts of the town of Bedford at the county fairgrounds stand an unusual building along the Lincoln Highway. Built in 1927, the 18-ft. high Coffee Pot was originally a lunch place adjoining a gas station. In 1937 it became a bar, with a hotel built in behind it. The build ended up vacant and falling apart, becoming an eyesore.

Coffee Pot Building
Coffee Pot Building

With the buildings fate unknown the people of Bedford stepped in to save the attraction. In 2003 the Bedford County Fair Association paid $1 to purchase it, and the Lincoln Highway Heritage Park Corridor, an attraction preservation group, spent $80k to move the building across the street to the fairgrounds and restore it in 2004. Today the unique building stands on display for people to marvel at.

Moving further to Franklin County, made a stop that many people are probably not familiar with. Easy to find but definitely not on the main road to anywhere we find a monument to the only U.S. President to come from the Commonwealth.

James Buchanan Birthplace Pyramid
James Buchanan Birthplace Pyramid

James Buchanan served as the 15th President of the United States. While many people have varying opinions of him as a President, he is the only Pennsylvanian to live in the White House. Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park is a 18.5 acre PA State park located near Cove Gap in the Tuscarora Mountains. The park was created from land donated by Harriet Lane in honor of her uncle.

James Buchanan Birthplace Pyramid
James Buchanan Birthplace Pyramid

The pyramid is 38 feet square and 31 feet high. It is made of 45 tons of American Gray Granite and 250 tons of mortar and native stones. Construction of the pyramid began in October 1907 with a work force of 20 men. They built a small railroad to haul the heavy materials from the mountainside to the construction site. The work force grew to 35 men and the monument was completed by late winter with a surrounding iron railing. The Pennsylvania General Assembly of 1911 accepted the monument from the trust of Harriet Lane Johnston and Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park was formally established.

Making our way back west we move into Huntingdon County. During my journeys one of my favorite things to see and come across are Mail Pouch Barns. I have come to learn that many times these barns are gone after researching their locations. On a recent trip I struck out three times on Mail Pouch Barns and expected number four to be the same. Until I arrived, I was immediately filled with excitement. Surrounded with beautiful landscapes the barn I was expecting was much much more. I had come across an even rarer structure, a Red Man Barn! Thankfully the parking was not the greatest or I would have stayed there longer just looking.

Red Man Barn
Red Man Barn

Moving along in Huntingdon County, located on private property that restricted us from exploring more we located Huntingdon Iron Furnace. The iron furnace was moved to this site in 1805, from its original site one mile upstream. It measures 30 feet square by 30 feet high. One thing I have noticed researching these old iron furnaces is that many were not in operation for that long. Huntingdon Furnace is a different story, it first fired in 1796 and remained in operation until 1880.

Huntingdon Iron Furnace
Huntingdon Iron Furnace

On a trip that covered Blair and Huntingdon Counties while visiting many places we also made time to do a little train photography. One of my favorite locations out here for trains is the train station in Tyrone, PA in Blair County. We arrived at this location for the main purpose of photographing Amtrak but got an extra treat when we arrived. On this trip there were three of us, besides myself I had my friends Dave and Kim along. Again Dave and I were like two kids on Christmas getting to photograph the Nittany & Bald Eagle RR as they interchanged with Norfolk Southern.

Nittany & Bald Eagle Railroad
Nittany & Bald Eagle Railroad

A few minutes later Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian arrived making a stop before it, like us continued east that day.

Eastbound Pennsylvanian
Eastbound Pennsylvanian

As we work on closing up this blog of some of my recent trips, I figure I should save some for future blogs. We will end in Somerset County, PA. On  a rather wet morning after a night of rain me and my two sons visited Cole Run Falls. The falls is located in Forbes State Park which covers multiple counties. Cole Run Falls is near Rockwood in Somerset County, PA. From the parking location you can hear the water run over the falls. A short walk down the trail brings you to the top of the falls.

Cole Run Falls
Cole Run Falls

From the top of the falls there is a trail that leads down a pretty steep and rocky hillside. The rain the night before provided plenty of water over the falls but made getting to the bottom a little tricky. Once down there though the view was worth it.

Cole Run Falls
Cole Run Falls

I am not sure how much of this is truth or local legend but I did read in my research that the falls gets its name from a fugitive that was once on run from the law. He took up residence in the area of the falls to hide from those perusing him. Again, I am not sure what is fact and legend but thought it was something interesting that should be shared. When the legend becomes becomes fact, print the legend, right?

A quick stop in Meyersdale at the former Western Maryland Train Station. The station was built in 1910  and known as “The Finest Station between Cumberland and Connellsville”. Today, the former station serves as home to the Meyersdale Historical Society and a rest stop along the Great Allegheny Passage Bike Trail. Inside the station it is packed with interactive model train layouts for kids and adults on one side, a small gift shop, and two rooms packed with the history of Meyerdale, railroading in the area, and the station. Outside is a former C&O caboose you can visit.

Meyersdale Historical Society
Meyersdale Historical Society

After departing the Meyersdale Historical Society we were traveling down Route 160, the Cumberland Pike and one of those moments occurred when nature provides you with the opportunity. Of course that opportunity didn’t allow me to pull over and photograph it. Lucky for me, my navigator (my oldest son Tyler) quickly went to work to locate a place to park. Racing down the two lane high way he found a great spot at St. John’s United Methodist Church. From here we had a great view of the wind mills playing a game of Peek-a-Boo in the clouds.

Peek-A-Boo Wind Mills
Peek-A-Boo Wind Mills

The spot Tyler found for the wind mills also provided us with a great view of the green rolling hills Somerset County has to offer. On this day we were staying a step ahead of more rain. In the distance you can see a herd of cows grazing the vast amounts of green grass under cloudy skies.

Rolling Hills of Somerset County, PA
Rolling Hills of Somerset County, PA

Our final stop for the day we were out and the final stop for this blog is a place of true heroism, patriotism, and remembrance. One of the most peaceful places I have ever visited and a place I always stop at when in the area. For those of us that lived through it and experienced our generations version of Pearl Harbor, we will never forget where and what we were doing on September 11, 2001. Here we are at the Flight 93 National Memorial.

Flight 93 Final Path
Flight 93 Final Path

As you approach the newer educational center you quickly notice the black walkway. This walkway leads you down the final flight path of Flight 93. The narrow opening represents the plane being sideways just before nosediving into the ground at a speed between 563 – 580 mph. The walkway leads you out to an observation deck overlooking the Wall of Names.

Flight 93 Wall of Names
Flight 93 Wall of Names

When you are standing on the observation deck at the educational center, it gives you a vast view of the park, the Wall of Names and the Boulder of Heroes. While standing here alone you only here the wind whispering in your ear. While standing here with other people many people say the same thing, “The wind sounds as if the heroes are talking to you.”

Granite Walkway
Granite Walkway

From the educational center you can choose to walk or drive down to the Wall of Names. As you approach it from the parking area you walk down a long dark granite walkway. In the distance you can see the wall in front of you, to your left in the distance is the Boulder of Heroes, and to the right on the hill is the educational center.

Wall of Names
Wall of Names

Standing at the far right from the Wall of Names just taking everything in. While standing here I have to admit I did become slightly angry. Standing here just watching and listening I noticed many kids being loud and running around with the parents not caring. This is meant to be a place of honor, serenity, and remembrance. Parents, if you can’t keep your children under control then don’t bring them here, in my opinion this is highly disrespectful acts.

Boulder of Heroes
Boulder of Heroes

When standing at the Wall of Names you will notice to the right of the wall is a large wooden wall you can look through. Through here you can see a large boulder, alone in the field. This is the Boulder of Heroes, the final resting place for the 40 souls of the passengers and crew will forever rest. Access to this area is highly restricted to park officials and family members of those killed. From my understanding, anytime a family member comes to visit the area is closed down and visitors are not permitted at the wall. This is to allow the family peace while they are there.

Wall of Names, Final Path
Wall of Names, Final Path

The final photograph for this series is a favorite of mine from the Flight 93 Wall of Names. Many times those coming here to visit will leave flowers or other small gifts for the sacrifice these 40 people made to protect their fellow Americans. The Bible states in John 15:13,  “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Flight 93 is the proof of this. We will never know the number of lives saved by these 40 sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grand parents, husbands, wives, friends, and strangers that unselfishly gave up their own.

I hope your enjoyed this Journey through Four Counties in PA. For more photographs of these places and many more please take a few minutes and check out and “Like” Patriot Portraits on Facebook and follow me on Flickr.

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A Journey Through Four Counties in PA

Why the RNC ‘Unhinged’ Ad Lacks Impact

“The Left in 2018: Unhinged” is the latest brainchild of the RNC, but it’s probably not going to make the impact that they had hoped.

While it’s true that the ad really is a decent collection of people on the left behaving badly, the fact is that people on both sides of the political spectrum have mostly reached a “state of meh” on the matter. Are Republicans still disgusted and annoyed by these vignettes? Sure. Are Democrats going to suddenly feel more ashamed than they have by these outbursts? Probably not. So, the ad’s existence isn’t moving anyone because it’s just illustrating the status quo.

If the RNC was hoping to cause anyone they featured in the video to feel the least bit ashamed, those hopes have been dashed. You know you’ve failed at public shaming when the celebrities are owning their bad behavior over on Deadline Hollywood.

In fact, the Republicans made a calculated error when they added the Kathy Griffin image with “Trump’s head.” Griffin rightfully questioned the situation, pointing out that when she did it, the primary complaint was that the photo frightened Barron Trump. So, the RNC is “okay” with scaring a First Child for the sake of a political ad?

Of course, there’s the obvious – the left has no problem owning their “unhinged” behavior because they believe that’s the only response. America is “crazy town” to them, because Donald Trump was elected president in the first place. They’re just fighting fire with fire. And honestly, the RNC might be proving the left’s theory with this ad. Sorry, but pouring gasoline on the outrage bonfire isn’t helpful, and does nothing to educate the public about anything that the Trump administration is actually doing. True, policy talk can be boring, but at least it isn’t more playing to the lowest common denominator.

Image: Photo by Elijah O’Donell on Unsplash

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Why the RNC ‘Unhinged’ Ad Lacks Impact

Anthony Scaramucci as the Adult in the Room?

When you have to admit that former Trump staffer Anthony Scaramucci is being the adult in the room, you know things are getting bad.

Anthony Scaramucci doesn’t have a reputation for being level-headed – on the contrary, he’s often characterized as a loose cannon. But, this week he’s showing signs of wisdom, in a way that few could have predicted.

Scaramucci actually bothered to suggest that Trump’s war of words on Twitter might be a very bad idea, at least in the context of the latest spat. Congresswoman Maxine Waters has been trying to gin up her supporters, and encourage them to act against members of the Trump administration whenever they are seen in public. This came in the wake of the Red Hen restaurant asking Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave.

Trump doubled down on the situation by making a veiled threat on Twitter against Waters:

And Scaramucci said this was “obviously not acceptable” during an interview on CNN. The fact that he was the messenger for this contention is notable to say the least.

Generally speaking, the rest of what Scaramucci had to say on the matter is absolutely correct. The verbal volleying between Trump and his detractors bears a resemblance to sophomoric taunting in a high school locker room. While some people are calling for civility – or in Scaramucci’s case, calling for the president to rise above the fray – the majority of the most vocal people on both sides of the aisle are intent on playing a game of linguistic limbo. The only question is “how low will they go?”

For those who bother to think about how future generations will view us, it’s fair to guess that Trump’s America will go down in history as one of the most counter-productive and mendacious administrations. It doesn’t matter what is accomplished, because everything will be viewed through a glass covered in mud. Scaramucci is right – it is time to stop playing like spoiled children, grow up, and focus on what is important. Or Trump can go down in history for being dragged down into the muck of the swamp he claimed he wanted to drain.

Image: DonkeyHotey

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Anthony Scaramucci as the Adult in the Room?

Trump and Political Dissent Through Internet Pranks

Trump already knows that his immigration policy is unpopular among many Americans, but now it’s being featured through a spoof site.

If Trump thought that his people were thorough when it came to buying out domains that are related to his business and name, he just found out that he was wrong. Gizmodo reported that some internet pranksters got their hands on the domain TrumpHotels.org, and are drawing attention to the detention camps that have sprung up near our southern border.

Of course, the response to this will be predictable – Trump supporters will complain, and detractors will cheer. But, there will also be calls for the site to be pulled down, essentially calling for the government to curtail the First Amendment rights of the people who created the site.

As a president, Trump is entitled to be kept safe, but he is not entitled to being protected from having his views attacked. On the contrary, that is one of the bedrock rights enshrined in the First Amendment – we have been granted free speech and press for the purpose of holding our leaders accountable.

When there are calls for the removal of this site, it is important to recognize the hypocrisy involved. It is a fair guess that these same people had spent a fair amount of time pushing anti-Obama information during the last presidency. While they might point out that social media sites like Facebook attempted to silence them when they would do this, the comparison is nowhere near equivalent. Pushing politically charged information on a privately held website like Facebook is not the same as publishing content on a domain one has purchased.

As for this TrumpHotels.org website, Trump is free to make offers to buy out the domain, and would be smart to keep a watch on it so that he could buy it up if the current owners happen to let it lapse. Otherwise, they’re free to do as they like with it, provided that they do not publish content calling for people to do harm to the president or any other criminal activities. Poking fun at Trump, or calling his policies into question in the public forum are not crimes, period.

While it’s easy to complain about this site, perhaps a better response from those who dislike it would be to start similar sites of their own. Tempting as it may be to keep up with the complaining about Hillary Clinton, it’s time to move on. She has officially retired from political life, and honestly isn’t a serious contender for any office at this point. So, do some homework. Who are the real potential contenders for 2020 on the Democrat side? Are there any candidates in the mid-terms who are just begging for satirical attention? But, don’t be a hypocrite.

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Trump and Political Dissent Through Internet Pranks

How Hollywood Can Halt DC

Hollywood writers may have inadvertently stumbled upon a powerful political tool that is in their grasp. The question is, will they really use it?

A handful (or more) shows currently are dealing with a voluntary “walk-out” by their writing teams. The cause is simple enough – the writers are fed up with Trump’s immigration policies. The challenge started with One Day at a Time and Vida, but has been joined by several other shows.

Generally speaking, this isn’t earth-shattering to the entertainment industry, but at least these writers are putting their money where their mouths are. In addition to striking, some are raising money for legal defense funds for the people caught in the middle – the ones who are having their children taken away from them.

The writers are also reminding the public that many of the people being detained at the border are actually asylum seekers.

It’s an issue that is getting lost in the heated rhetoric, but needs to be said. Most Americans should be aware of the fact that the countries of origin for many of these people are dictatorships – officially, or essentially. Yes, the people are fleeing from lives in poverty, but many of them are also seeking asylum because they have been targeted for death.

Because it’s a relatively small number of writers involved at this point, this protest isn’t likely to cause anyone in Washington to do anything. Arguably the conservatives who would need to act won’t, because their base would prefer to see those shows off the air anyway. Sorry, but the radical conservative followers of Trump might actually be rejoicing to see the writers of Handmaid’s Tale on strike.

The history of Hollywood writers’ strikes should be seen as a cautionary tale.

If the people in Hollywood truly are fed up with the bad behavior in Washington, maybe they should be looking back at 2007-2008. From November 2007 through February 2008, the Writers Guild of America went on strike, and Americans saw quite a lot of reruns. It was a relatively short strike, and the hardest hit shows were soap operas. However, there were few people in the country who were completely unaware of it.

The writers, because they were fighting to get higher pay, probably would have had some trouble getting sympathy and support from television show fans if that strike had gone on for a long period of time. But, what would the public response be if there was a strike over a political cause?

It is no secret that the political landscape of America is shaped by a very small percentage of the public. Activists have complained about this fact for years, while political campaign strategists have banked on it to put less-than-savory candidates into office. But, if politics spilled over to the point where even those who are blissfully unaware of the issues of the day were forced to pay attention, that small game could change.

We’ll have to see if Hollywood catches on to this concept. If it does, or if the Writers Guild of America decided to go on strike over this issue, Trump might find out exactly how popular he really is. Then he would have the full attention of the people who haven’t been watching the news.

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How Hollywood Can Halt DC

Regaining the Wave and Writing

“Never write when you can’t set your gaze beyond your navel.”

I’ve probably written and typed those words thousands of times over the years, but not lately. It’s a throwback from when I would spend countless hours reading essays, short stories, and the occasional poem (only when forced) from the slush piles of literary journal submissions. But, I am not a hypocrite, so lately I haven’t been writing.

While I personally abhor reading or writing navel-gazing prose, I know that there is a huge market for introspection on the page. Tempting as it may be for me to get into the pros and cons of “writing to the market” in this particular genre, I will merely point out someone who knew at least a little bit about drawing readers into stories with well-written plots.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

Ironically enough, the man who said that rarely (if ever) sat down at a typewriter, since he was known to work standing up. Ernest Hemingway knew a thing or two about writing, but while his writings were primarily about his exploits, they were not introspective screes. I would tell this to students who interpreted that quote to mean that they should be like cutters, ripping their skin open to bleed the words from within their souls onto the page.

Hemingway probably didn’t mean anything that personal, and was referring to the concept of forcing oneself to write – badly more often than not. It is a good habit to have and keep, but it can be harmful, too.

Practice can make perfect, but it can also make permanent.

Bleeding one’s pain onto the page can be therapeutic or cathartic, but for a writer, it can cause a creative rut. Some have disagreed with me on this, but it is a road I’ve traveled before – one which lead to long spates of only editing because of paralyzing writer’s block. I’m just pushing myself off that road again now.

Now, I’ve been toying with a few literary devices so far here, without mentioning the “wave” at all. It’s a description that stuck with me from one of the many vodka soaked evenings I’d spend with some friends and fellow writers.

You know the iconoclastic surfer and pothead from Bali? He said what every writer should hear and understand. “Writing is like riding the wave. The rush is great, and even the worst run teaches you something.”

I don’t remember which of my fellow travelers told us that in the wee hours of the morning, and honestly suspect that the surfer exists only as a character. But, we can still learn from fiction. I’ve known that rush more than I wanted to admit, and I still know how to let my mind surrender to that ebb and flow which leads to thousands of words on the page in a day. Personally, I don’t let myself do that when my mind is centered on negative things, because it’s not practice with the goal of perfection. It is the road to permanence – the rut.

Now, I know that I am guilty of a fair amount of introspection here, but there is a universal point. Writers are constantly told to “just write” – “write every day, no matter what.” As a general rule, I agree. However, if writing every day is not leading to better writing, stop. Take the time to figure out why, and if you find that it’s because you are in a negative state of mind, do something else.

Get yourself out of your personal rut, so that you can then get your writing out of it, too. Wait until you’re ready to ride the wave.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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Regaining the Wave and Writing

Trump, Immigration, and Uniting a Nation

President Trump ran on the idea of building a “Yuge wall” on our southern border, and right now he is making good on that promise in a virtual sense.

The current border detention camps are precisely what he thought his base really wanted, in the absence of a physical wall. Trump probably viewed his “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration as a safe bet, but now it looks like it is building cracks in his previously solid base.

While the “evil media” has been quick to report on the mess that is building on our southern border, general news reports from networks like ABC have avoided saying some important things about Trump’s immigration policy.

They have accurately stated repeatedly that the detention camps are entirely caused by Trump as opposed to any law, and that Congress has nothing to do with this. (The Hill isn’t guiltless, because we wouldn’t be facing this situation in the first place if they had bothered to fix our ailing legal immigration system.)

What is missing is an historical comparison with the World War II era detention of U.S. citizens of Japanese descent. The U.S. isn’t currently at war with Guatemala or any of the other nations of origin of the current detainees, so there isn’t the excuse of national security no matter how many times Trump claims that all of these people are members of dangerous gangs. Another difference is that unlike what the U.S. did to Japanese people during WWII, we are separating children from their families. There was another country that made a practice of doing that during WWII, however – Germany.

So, the mainstream media generally has not opted to make these legitimate historical comparisons in their reports.

I am speaking about “news” as opposed to “opinion” broadcasts. The talking heads on the cable news networks have undoubtedly taken swipes at Trump over this, but they are catering to their partisan viewers. That also means that their viewership is necessarily limited, while broadcast networks still draw from a larger pool of less partisan viewers.

One good thing that seems to be coming out of these atrocities is a much needed reality check – the public is seeing the real people who are directly affected by Trump’s immigration policy.

The inconvenient truth is that Trump is pushing a xenophobic at best – racist at worst – immigration policy which is opposed to the founding principles of the U.S. This shouldn’t be surprising, given Trump’s upbringing by a father who had been known for similar philosophies to the point where it was immortalized in song.

Historically speaking, the irony is that many of the people who are supporting Trump’s immigration policies today wouldn’t be U.S. citizens if earlier generations had adopted similar policies. The fact remains that every European nation had periods of time when citizens migrated to the U.S. to escape financial or political problems. History also tells us that immigrants have built business and industry in the U.S., and continue to do so today.

Trump is facing the unintended consequence of his actions right now. He is uniting the U.S. – against his immigration policy.

When it was hype and rhetoric on the campaign trail, “build the wall” was easy to support without appearing overtly racist. Now that the “zero tolerance” policy is causing detention camps filled with crying children who have been separated from their parents, that’s not so easy. It is further complicated by emerging reports of parents who are deported, while their children remain in the U.S. detention camps. Trump has claimed that “family separation” is meant to be a deterrent against illegal immigration, but he is failing to recognize the fact that these people are attempting to enter the U.S. because they are desperate.

Fallout has hit officials like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been censured by members of his church, and Director of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, who was heckled by protesters in a Mexican restaurant. (Perhaps her choice of cuisine was poorly made.) At least as of this writing, Nielsen is apparently attempting to put a stop to the most egregious portion of the detention program – family separation.

Timing is everything, and when it comes to the Trump administration, it seems to be flawless – not in a good way. Perhaps someone should have told UN Ambassador Nikki Haley to hold off on withdrawing the U.S. from the Human Rights Council at least for a little while. Some nations have no problem sitting on that council while committing human rights atrocities, but the U.S. shouldn’t be one of them. Now we’re seeing that we probably are in Trump’s America.

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Trump, Immigration, and Uniting a Nation

Why Trump Playing Dealmaker on North Korea Could be a Dealbreaker

Trump needs to think before he speaks (or acts) when it comes to North Korea, unless he wants to go down in history as the president who screwed up the potential for peace. North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has apparently settled into a second talk session with China over the possibility of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which is exactly what the US wants.

Talks between North and South Korea went well, at least from outward appearances. While Trump might be tempted to claim that historic move is because of him, that assertion is probably more hubris than truth. These talks were announced shortly after the Olympics were hosted in South Korea, where there had been behind-the-scenes talk between the two nations.

It’s also arrogant for Trump to assume that Kim Jong Un is talking about denuclearization because of fear of the US president. Since a major nuclear testing facility in North Korea has literally collapsed, it’s difficult to say exactly what the nation has left. Outsiders can tell that the mountain fell down, but what was destroyed with it is unknown. For all anyone knows, the best Kim Jong Un had on hand went up in dust with the collapse. He could be talking peace because he no longer has weapons to back up threats.

In addition to just talking, South Korea offered Kim Jong Un some help on infrastructure planning once peace is achieved. No matter what, when North Koreans are no longer isolated from the rest of the world, it’s going to be difficult for Kim Jong Un to maintain power. He probably knows this, so it’s not unreasonable to suspect that North Koreans are already getting restless for freedom. Remember, at least some of them got a taste of what South Korea has to offer when they attended the Olympics. Kim Jong Un wasn’t able to isolate them from everyone and everything while they participated in the games.

The point is that there are many moving parts in the peace negotiations on the Korean Peninsula, and while the US is technically still involved, it probably is best to take a step back right now. Let North and South Korea hammer out some kind of deal on their own, before going in heavy-handed. Trump should do just that, but given his ego, that’s not likely. We can cross our fingers, and hope that the Koreans figure out how to reunite peacefully, in spite of Trump.

Image: Blue House (Republic of Korea) [Public domain or KOGL], via Wikimedia Commons

The post Why Trump Playing Dealmaker on North Korea Could be a Dealbreaker appeared first on Literat Politik.


Source: Literat Politik

Why Trump Playing Dealmaker on North Korea Could be a Dealbreaker

3 Problems Americans Are Ignoring in Politics

Americans have become very adept at ignoring problems, particularly when it comes to politics. Lately, the excuse du jour is the unending partisan spats that must be addressed by the denizens of the opposing political positions – blue versus red. But, if they would take a step back, set aside the partisanship for just a moment, there’s a chance that they might recognize the following three problems that are plaguing both sides of the aisle.

1. Lowering the bar doesn’t lead to greatness – Whether you’re talking about lowering standards to allow for “equality” or turning a blind eye on bad behavior, letting things slide because it makes you feel better doesn’t help anyone. Both sides of the aisle are guilty of this, so no finger-pointing allowed. It is wrong to suggest that schools or the military or anything else should reduce their standards to let in people who simply don’t have the ability to do what is required. On the other hand, it’s also wrong to keep electing people whose behavior is worse than our own.

We keep thinking that we’re helping “marginalized groups” when we give them a pass to get into programs or careers that they really aren’t equipped to do. How helpful is it to reduce standards and end up with less competent people in those positions? The hard truth is that not everyone is meant to be exactly what they want in society, and the best we can do is to prevent government from getting in the way of people doing the best that they can. That doesn’t mean make it easier to do anything – it just means remove unnecessary hurdles and road blocks.

As for our slippery slope with politicians, that has been happening since the beginning of our nation, not just during the past few decades. However, once we started talking about wanting a president who we could picture ourselves sharing a beer with on the porch, our standards did start dropping severely. Before anyone gets offended or starts saying that the president deserves respect, think about the characteristics of the current one. If your next door neighbor had a history of cheating on his wife, would you assume that he quit just because he hadn’t been caught recently? How long would a dinner guest last at your table if he monopolized the table discussion with talk about how he is an expert at everything? Finally, if you wouldn’t put up with that kind of behavior from someone you interact with as a friend, why would you defend it when you see it done by the president? If that is what “respecting the president” really has become, the bar is extremely low.

2. Minors and media aren’t good policy-makers – After the shooting in Parkland, the children have taken to the streets to demand changes in policy, and the media has been feeding their fervor. Unfortunately, too many people who should be acting as the adults in the room have been swept up by this. Particularly in this case, it is a terrible idea.

Any reliable source on dealing with loss and grief – from pamphlets to psychological professionals – will tell people that it is a terrible idea to make any major life decisions immediately after a loved one has died. This is why people are constantly encouraged to make wills, living wills, pre-plan funerals, etc. In all of those plans, people are always told to name responsible adults to carry out their wishes – not children.

If we can understand why children shouldn’t be involved in carrying out anything important in our personal lives when someone dies, why are we thinking that they should be highly involved in major decisions for our nation when they are dealing with losses themselves? The media is telling us that we should listen to them, because it fits their agenda. Depending on how cynical someone is, that agenda either just involves making money or goes far deeper. Either way, the public isn’t turning off the television, and they are showing up in droves at these protests that are driven by uncontrolled emotion. Following that to the logical conclusion, does that mean that we have reached the point where we think it’s a great idea to make governmental policies and laws based solely on uncontrolled emotions? Let’s hope not.

3. Apathy – It would be nice to be able to point back at a specific time in our history as a nation and say “that was when our populace as a whole really did care.” Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Early on, it is true that just about everyone who was granted the right to vote actually did cast a ballot regularly. During those times, there were many people excluded, notably blacks and women. Now, nowhere near the number of people who are eligible to vote actually register and vote. It’s true that the children who want to run our government lately are trying to get more people registered to vote, but even that effort won’t make a real dent in the number of people who simply choose not to involve themselves in their own governance.

True, in the worst cases those same people who don’t vote will be the first to complain, but it never seems to occur to them that they should make use of their right to vote. It’s taken for granted. People from other nations around the world look at us and cannot understand why so many of our citizens simply don’t vote.

Of course, the radicals on either side of the aisle are probably hoping that those masses don’t step up. Why? Because they know that the apathetic people are mostly sitting in the middle. There are some radicals among them, but most of them are just sitting in the middle. Maybe those vocal radicals wouldn’t have so much power if the apathetic moderates started caring – and voting.

Image: Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

The post 3 Problems Americans Are Ignoring in Politics appeared first on Literat Politik.


Source: Literat Politik

3 Problems Americans Are Ignoring in Politics

Did Twitter Just Devalue Itself with Its New Policy?

Twitter has banned bulk tweeting, re-tweeting, and liking of tweets, which has left many third-party developers of social media management tools scrambling. This move was ostensibly to cut back on bots spreading hate speech and Russian propaganda, but like any other new rule it is likely to have at least one unintended consequence.

This new rule may reduce the value of Twitter as a marketing tool for many businesses and creative types.

To illustrate the potential problem, consider a large company like Coca-Cola, or a large traditional publishing house like Penguin Books. In both cases, the companies maintain multiple twitter accounts, and while they have staff members who are responsible for creating social content on Twitter for them, that probably isn’t the extent of their job descriptions. They make use of some level of automation, and for the sake of promoting their products across their various audiences on Twitter, they probably do end up with a fair number of bulk tweets across multiple accounts. They also may repeat tweets over time, which may or may not land an account in trouble.

True, it’s unlikely that Twitter will end up shutting down any large corporate accounts with this new policy, but scale things back in your mind now. Consider writers who may promote their work through multiple accounts, or people who work in website design, SEO, social media management, etc. Part of their job description is to promote the work and information of their clients, which can easily lead to violations of the Twitter policy against bulk tweets from multiple accounts.

While there is a fair degree of specialization in technology work these days, there are still many workers who wear many hats on a daily basis. If this Twitter policy is going to be automated (which one is safe to assume it must be), it’s fair to guess that there will be many accounts suspended for violations, meanwhile all they would be guilty of is promoting multiple clients or brands across multiple accounts – for work.

I admit that I am assuming sooner or later, my own accounts on Twitter will fall as a result of this policy. I’m guilty of making use of automation, repeat tweets, and arguably my Twitter account is mostly a bot. It’s not that I avoid interacting with people entirely. I just view Twitter as a time-sucking necessary evil most of the time. If I don’t spend time on social media, I can spend more time writing, editing, coding, increasing my skill set, and maintaining a work/life balance that keeps me sane.

Somehow I suspect that I’m not alone in thinking that Twitter is a tool for work that is best left to someone else or a reasonably priced automation client. Even though Twitter doubled its character limit, the platform still isn’t conducive to intelligent debate. (Ironically enough, some of the accounts that Twitter is trying to purge with this new rule are part of the reason why businesses and creators may list as other reasons for abandoning the platform.) I have no illusions about ROI of my time on Twitter – it’s near nil. Yes, I do get some clicks on links offered there, but I don’t have time to experiment with posts for most of my own content. When speaking with clients, I still say that social media driven traffic is “nice”, but search engine traffic is always better. It’s more reliable.

So, time will tell how this latest brain child will play out for Twitter. Personally, I doubt that I will bother leaping through any major hoops to restore an account on it if I lose the ability to use it over the fact that my accounts are largely automated and re-post old tweets regularly. Again, I suspect I’m not alone in that assertion.

The post Did Twitter Just Devalue Itself with Its New Policy? appeared first on Liz Harrison – Writer – Editor – Consultant.


Source: Liz Harrison

Did Twitter Just Devalue Itself with Its New Policy?