Monday, November 13, 2017

No one aware of abuse would say nothing about high-profile politician for years; I know this

    I have a big problem with the Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore's accusers: I simply don’t believe them. A big part of this is because I don’t trust at all allegations made at the end of party primaries, when it is too late for a party’s candidate to drop out. These women could have made these allegations five months ago, but of course then it wouldn’t have thrown the election to a Democrat.
    There are serious problems with a number of the stories that these women have related. In some cases they clearly have lied; in others they have lied or have had very faulty memories. I'm not going to address the details of these lies other than to say they are legion; I just have a huge problem that these charges have been brought up at the very last minute.
    I will say that I can believe these women wouldn’t report a sexual impropriety from their teen or young adult years. As a pre-teen I was aware of a situation in which a number of people were homosexually abused. I never said anything. None of the victims ever said anything. At least a dozen of us knew what had happened, and no one ever said anything (I found out years later that one kid's parents did find out but did nothing. Prosecution could have ruined their kid's life). My recollection is some of us kind of talked about it and agreed that parents weren’t really capable of hearing this type of news. Through the years I’ve only told a few people about the whole mess; I’ve told my wife. So it is true that people don't report abuse.
    It’s very difficult to explain the dynamic. But what I can say is that if I were ever aware that this sorry, piece-of-shit abuser – wherever he may be – was a candidate for public office, I wouldn’t wait for him to get his party’s nomination to come forward with reports of his abuse. I wouldn’t wait for him to be repeatedly elected to office for years and years. I wouldn't rush out and hire Gloria Allred to represent me. The notion that these women would allow Roy Moore to be repeatedly elected to various offices while saying absolutely nothing is preposterous. If these charges were true, they would have been made long ago. And if they were afraid to go public, they would have told their friends; not one or two, but dozens or hundreds, anyone who would listen. It's simply not possible that these women would be abused and do nothing until Moore had secured his party's nomination. It's not possible; there's not a chance in a thousand that what they are saying is true.
    People lie, sometimes for money, sometimes for attention, and sometimes for what they believe is justice. In the case of Roy Moore, someone who helps stop him By Any Means Necessary is viewed as a hero. When this story first came out the Washington Post said none of the women had any tie to any political campaign. Of course it turned out that one of the primary sources was a Hillary Clinton employee and rabid Doug Jones supporter. In fact, the Alabama Democratic Party is all wrapped up in all of these charges. The stories have been filled with lie after lie after lie, but everyone seems to just ignore these. These are people with every incentive to lie and they are clearly taking advantage of it.
    In the previous election campaign, global elitists spent $1.6 billion in an effort to put Hillary Clinton in office. Donald Trump's enemies -- both Republican and Democrat -- financed the compilation of a "Russian Dossier" filled with lies that justified illegal wiretapping by the Obama administration. Does anyone doubt that the same people willing to spend $1.6 billion in an effort to destroy America might be willing to spare say a few hundred thousand for some women to make some incendiary claims against Roy Moore?
    Is it possible that these stories are true? Everything is possible. Were Roy Moore’s admitted -- and very legal -- dating patterns a bit creepy or at least outside the ordinary? Perhaps. That's why these outlandish stories have traction. Do these stories pass the smell test? Not in the slightest.

Friday, November 10, 2017

French society 'Les Fleurs de la Memoire' adopts graves of fallen American servicemen

French heritage group members honor John Paul Hurdle's grave
    A couple of years ago I got a call from a lady up in Missouri who had visited Normandy on or around the D-Day anniversary. She saw some people in uniform paying honor to one of the graves so she took some photographs. She then returned home and tried to find some relatives of the deceased soldier.
    The soldier’s grave being honored was that of my uncle, John Paul Hurdle, who died when his plane was shot down in the run-up to D-Day. The lady who took the photos found me I think through my postings on Ancestry.com. In any event, she called me and shared the story and the photos with me.
    It seems the men in uniform honoring the memory of various fallen soldiers were members of an organization called Les Fleurs de la Memoire, or Flowers of Memory, which encourages individuals or families to adopt the grave of an American solider and honor it with the placement of flowers, since this can’t be done by their own families. NPR has a story on this organization back in 2008.
    I found a website called “Together We Served” that had all of the details of Uncle Paul’s military service. It’s pretty interesting. They have done a lot of work to put this information together for so many soldiers.
    Three or four years after the war, one or more of the crew members from Uncle Paul's plane made a courtesy call on my grandparents and told of the events on the day Paul died. They said their plane's engines were knocked out and that everyone bailed out of the plane, with Paul being one of the last to leave. He was shot while in the air parachuting to the ground.
    Russell Gray Houston told me an interesting story about the day the news arrived of Paul's death. He said he was good friends with the son of the manager of the telegraph office and was in the office the day the telegram arrived. The manager called my grandfather and told him he was delivering a telegram about Paul and that it was bad news. The kids rode with him to my grandparent's house and my grandfather was on the front porch crying when the telegram was delivered.
    As we remember our veterans, living and dead, let us share some gratitude to these kind and patriotic French citizens who are honoring our dead servicemen who never came home.

This photo was always in my grandparent's living room
   
John Paul Hurdle is fourth from left

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The power of friendship: In four days, Stella review becomes my most read blog post of all time

    People who love Oxford love good restaurants. My favorable review of Oxford’s newest restaurant, Stella, was published Wednesday morning. By midnight Saturday it had been directly accessed 7,160 times, making it the most read blog post I’ve ever written over the course of almost 10 years.
    I’m able to see how many people view my blog and I couldn’t figure out how or why so many people were reading the Stella review. Then I visited restaurant owner Johnny Kirk’s Facebook page and saw where he had not only posted it, but that it had been shared more than 40 times. It pays to have friends!
    Coming in second, with 7,102 direct page views, is a post I wrote several years ago about PSAT National Merit estimated cutoff scores. There is intense national interest in this, so I got a lot of hits from Google.
    My third most-read blog post of all time tells about Wild Bill Schneller thumbing nose, starting fight at 1938 Arkansas game. I wrote this post a number of years ago about the father of a friend, and each year before the Arkansas game it starts to get hits on its own. I made a point of posting it on Facebook this year, as did several others. It has 4,826 lifetime hits, but more than 3,000 of those are in the past month, again due to the fact that a number of young Bill Schneller's friends shared the blog post.
    Some of these “hits” may be from web “bots,” of course. On the other hand, quite a number of people access my blog directly. I still get one or two visits a day from people who click on the link on the late Tom Freeland’s old blog, NMissCommentor.com. At one time I got 15 or 20 visits a day from Tom’s blog.
    To put all of this in perspective, I sometimes write blog posts that get fewer than 100 direct hits (sometimes I don't post them on Facebook). But the hit numbers are really all over the place, from a few hundred to just over a thousand. Only a few posts have gotten over 2,000 direct page views.
    It’s interesting to see the power of social media. But it’s also interesting to see the power of friendship and the desire of people to share good news. Friendship is powerful stuff!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Stella, Oxford's newest restaurant, has the potential to be its very best

Stella's Caesar salad is art on a plate

    I’ve never been to a restaurant on opening night, but I read on Hottytoddy.com about the opening of Oxford’s newest restaurant, Stella, and decided to try it out. Stella is located where Smitty’s used to be, just off the Square on South Lamar; for old-timers, Grundy’s.
    Here’s my short review: If opening night is any indicator, Stella is an outstanding fine dining establishment. It has the potential to be the best restaurant in Oxford. Oh, and it’s fairly expensive, too.
    Now for the longer version, with one caveat: Stella is outstanding, but everyone likes and dislikes things. Any negative comment I make should be taken as a quibble and nothing more.
    After reading about the opening we tried to call to ask about availability. Stella doesn’t have a phone number on Google yet, and while they have a web page, about 50 percent of it is dummy copy. The mobile version of the website had no phone number (actually, it’s listed as 111-1234), so Jinny and I just decided to try to walk in.
    I was sure the restaurant would be packed with people wanting to be first in line for a new thing, but there were a number of empty tables visible as we drove by. We were able to get a table right away. Most tables were full, but I would guess that having a few empty tables was a blessing on opening night.
    When we arrived we were seated immediately in banquette seating on the north wall. I hate banquette seating, but they only had seven tables for two with plenty of space between the tables. I’ve been in restaurants where the tables were narrower and they would cram 10 tables into the same space, so all in all it was plenty roomy. If every place with banquette seating was like this I might learn to like it.
    At present Stella has a pretty limited menu. My understanding is that they plan to expand it once they get the place up and running on all cylinders. This is a wise choice; better to do a few things exceptionally well than a lot of things poorly.
    There were, as I recall, five starters, three salads, and five entrees on the menu. We didn’t get a starter, but they included a crab cake, fried oysters, stuffed quail, and two others. I’d love to see the crab cake and stuffed quail stuck on a plate as a main, but I don’t know enough about food to know if they would pair well.
    Entrees included salmon with a crust that included horseradish, a pork chop, a filet, scallops, and a semi-cheap chicken breast. Jinny loves scallops, but the description of all the other things on the plate, including capers and cauliflower puree,  scared her off. So Jinny got the filet and I got the pork chop. I kind of wanted to get the filet, too, but knew Jinny wouldn’t eat all of hers. I really regret not taking a photo of the menu so I could accurately describe the way these dishes are presented.
    We started with salads, which are priced high enough that we started not to order them. A Caesar Salad costs $11 and the cheapest salad was $9. We each ordered the Caesar’s though, and I have to say the Caesar Salads were a work of art. I love baked Parmesan, and there was a large arch of baked Parmesan over a salad of uncut romaine lettuce leaves, topped with a white anchovy (mine only, since Jinny asked that they keep her anchovy for another lucky customer). It was only after the salad arrived that I decided to take out my phone and snap a photo, because they really were beautiful. They tasted good, too.
My pork chop and peas, minus a few bites
    After the salads came the entrees. Jinny’s filet was closer to medium-well than the medium-rare ordered, but was nevertheless quite good. The filet was melt-in-your-mouth tender with a great flavor. It was served with a “Balsamic Demi Glace” on top and “Hoseradish-Lemon Aioli” on the side. I refer to this as a sumpin-sumpin sauce. I loved it, although I usually only like Lea & Perrins on my steak. My pork chop was served atop a bed of black-eyed peas mixed with chopped celery and other stuff, kind of a dry, crunchy relish. The pork chop was good, but I think I would order the black-eyed peas as a main course if I could.
    For desert we had coffees and split a molten lava cake with an anglais sauce. I don’t know what the rest of the desserts on offer were because when I heard “molten lava” the decision was made. Dessert was great. My second cup of coffee was cold, and when I asked the waiter to microwave it for me for 40 seconds he took it to the back and brewed more coffee. He said the restaurant doesn’t have a microwave, which I find odd, since sometimes things just need to be heated a bit. I’d rather have a microwaved cup of coffee in one minute than a freshly brewed cup in five. Only a quibble, as I promised above.
    Stella also offered a cheese plate for dessert, which is my usual dessert choice when offered. Cheese for dessert is kind of a European thing, but I hope they get enough demand for this to keep offering it. I plan on ordering it next time.
    Now to the wine list! Stella only had one “wine by the glass” of each type, which was a bit of a disappointment, although their one choice of each type was a quality wine. Their sparkling wine is Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Cava, which Jinny had on a business trip and came home raving about, so that's what she got. I started with a glass of Pine Ridge white wine, a blend consisting of 80 percent chenin blanc and 20 percent viognier. The Pine Ridge white was very grape-fruity, which I usually hate, but I liked this wine. I also got a glass of Benton Lane pinot noir which was quite good; at $14 a glass it ought to be! Although Stella's wine prices are a little on the high side, they offer a generous 6.25 oz. wine pour; they bring the wine in a small carafe and pour it at the table. I call it the Disney World pour, since all of the Disney restaurants have a similar serving size, which is almost exactly one-fourth of a bottle. Many (most?) restaurants squeeze out five glasses to the bottle. The extra little dab is easy to see in the glass.
    In the future I’d love to see more wine-by-the-glass options, and perhaps wine flights. There are wine dispensing systems using argon as a preservative that will keep a bottle of wine fresh for 30 days, which allows restaurants the option of serving obscure or expensive wines by the glass. This would be a great thing to have.
    The worst part of every restaurant meal is the check, in our case $157, which is more than we usually spend on dinner. We knew it was coming; part of me wishes we hadn’t enjoyed the meal so much, because we are eager to go back but our budget is screaming “No!”
    I asked our waiter to tell the owner that we really enjoyed our meal and thought his restaurant would be a great success. I then added that he should tell the chef as well, at which point I was informed that the owner is the chef. That’s a good thing.
    I suspect Stella will soon be slammed with customers. New restaurants often have problems dealing with a full house, leaving first-time patrons with a bad impression. I hope the owners will keep their crowd down – removing some tables if necessary – for the first few weeks until they get their sea legs. Our meal was nearly perfect, but my gut feeling was that if every table in the place had been full there would have been some problems.
    In any event, I’m glad to see that Oxford has a new fine-dining establishment. Stella has the potential to be the best restaurant in Oxford. I wish them well and look forward to visiting again when my budget allows.

Monday, September 25, 2017

You can save 40 percent or more on postage by buying old 'collector' stamps on eBay

I bought $32 worth of these for $22.75
    For penny-pinchers, there’s an easy way to save 40 to 50 percent – and maybe more – on U.S. Postal Service postage. How? Just buy old, supposedly “collector” stamps on eBay.
    I found this fact the hard way when trying to sell some of my mother’s “treasures.” She had a bunch of sheets of postage that the Postal Service issues in sheets of 20 stamps. People buy these with the idea that some day their commemorative stamps of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, or Bugs Bunny might be worth something someday. Well, they aren’t. As a general rule, anything that is sold as a “collector’s item” on the front end is not worth collecting.
    It turns out that these old stamps are being offered in great quantities on eBay for 40 to 60 cents on the dollar. My guess is that it’s people trying to clear out estates. Since these stamps are older, their face value is usually much less than the 49 cents it takes to mail a letter today; so using them means affixing two or more stamps to an envelope. Many people don’t want to do this, but I don’t mind. I have seen “Forever” stamps offered on eBay at a big discount as well, but the biggest bargains comes from buying fixed-amount stamps.
    I was going through some of my old stuff recently and found about $50 worth of the 32-cent Civil War series of postage that was issued in the 1990s. I decided to see if any more was being offered on eBay and was able to buy $32 worth for $22. This is actually a slight premium over what most old postage goes for, but I thought it might be fun to trigger “snowflakes” by sticking a Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis stamp on their letter. Or for the Unreconstructed Southerner I might share William T. Sherman or Abraham Lincoln.
     Sometimes these old stamps have a time-warpish feel to them. I doubt the Postal Service would have the courage to issue Civil War commemorative stamps today. I purchased some sheets of 10-cent stamps to bring my 32-centers up to full value (slightly above, actually) and noticed that one sheet features a little girl holding a doll with the message, “Retarded Children Can be Helped.” Despite the good intentions, that’s something that you wouldn’t find on a stamp today.
    In any event, I’ve shared the secret to half or nearly half-priced postage. If interested, just make a visit to ebay.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Global warming isn't making storms worse, but coastal population density is

There was a time when our coastal areas were sparsely populated.

    The damage, although not the death toll, of Hurricane Harvey may outpace that of Hurricane Katrina. You can expect the Global Warming crowd to cite this as "proof" that global warming is making things worse.
    Virtually everything gets blamed on global warming. Facts, of course, are not important. Click here to see a chart that identifies every hurricane known to have reached U.S.  landfall since the 1850s. It's not considered accurate for its earliest years because many hurricanes were not identified due to sparse population.
    You will note that the past 10 years have seen below-average hurricane activity. And  the 1940s, when global warming was a mere gleam in Albert Gore Sr.'s eye, were a time of frequent and powerful hurricanes.
    What has changed is that more and more people are moving into areas that are prone to highly destructive hurricanes. In the 1940s Florida claimed about two million residents and Monroe County, Fla., home to Key West and Key Largo, had about 15,000. In the 1940s the Bogart and McCall movie Key Largo featured at a nearly abandoned hotel, which was quite realistic for the time.
    Today Florida has a population of more than 18 million and the population of Monroe has grown to almost 80,000. Most of Florida's population growth has taken place around Orlando and in coastal areas. The map at the top of this post shows the population density of the Southern Atlantic Seaboard. It's the same story all over Florida, with most people choosing to live near the water -- and in the path of deadly hurricanes.
    Conjure up an image of a Florida beach house and you likely think of a very simple structure;  many years ago such houses were built with the knowledge that the Big Bad Hurricane Wolf might come and blow the house down. Today expensive homes are built with wild abandon along all of our coastal areas, subsidized by cheap federal insurance. The results, in terms of property damage and the loss of human life, can be catastrophic.
    Florida's story is repeated all over the nation. In 1940 the city of Houston, Texas had fewer than 400,000 residents; today there are more than two million. Some of that increase is doubtless due to annexation, but the area is far more densely populated than ever before. The results when disaster strikes are easily predictable.
    So the next time you hear somebody prattle on about how massive damage from storms is caused by global warming, point out that the leading cause of this damage is the decision by tens of millions of people to build and live in harm's way. Perhaps, as a matter of public policy, we should discourage such development, or at least not have the government subsidize it so much.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Preservation of slavery a major reason Southern colonies supported American Revolution

    A little history lesson. A number of Southern states decided to join America’s civil war in order to preserve slavery. It’s a fact.
    But do understand that the terrible conflagration that occurred between 1861 and 1865 was not a civil war as most people understand the term. It was truly, as Southerners, refer to it, as a War Between the States. The Confederacy had an organized government, a legislature, a judiciary, an executive, and 11 sovereign states that also had fully organized and fully functional governments. These things do not exist in a civil war.
    America’s civil war didn’t take place from 1861-65. It took place from 1775 to 1781. We refer to it as the American Revolution, but in fact the Revolution has all of the characteristics of a civil war, among them a poorly organized government and little geographic division between opposing sides.
    Most people are under the impression that the War Between the States was fought for the purpose of freeing the slaves. Far from it. Abraham Lincoln sought the passage of the Corwin Amendment during James Buchanan’s lame duck period, which would have enshrined slavery into the Constitution forever.
    Lincoln wrote to the governors of the seceding states providing copies of the Corwin Amendment for them to consider, it being his opinion that they were still a part of they Union and therefore their legislatures could vote to ratify. The Southern states were not interested, because there were so many other conflicts with the North; the South simply did not wish to be a part of the Union, even if slavery was guaranteed. The forced abolition of slavery simply was not on the table in 1861.
    Things changed after several years of war, and Lincoln eventually signed the Emancipation Proclamation (which had no immediate effect, since it only applied to areas not under Union control), but the important thing to understand is that what is commonly called the American Civil War simply was not fought for the purpose of freeing slaves. It happened afterwards, but it was not the intention of the North at the outset.
    Enough of that. Let us go back to the American Revolution. Unlike the Northern colonies, the Southern colonies were fairly happy with relations with Great Britain. Sure, they had gripes, but most Colonists were loyalists. But they were dealing with what amounted to a massive slave rebellion.
    Word had spread among the slave population of Great Britain’s inclination to abolish slavery at some point. A British court had set free a Jamaican slave who had been brought to England in what was known as the Sommerset Decision, and although the court decision was intentionally limited, most American slaves believed – incorrectly – that if they could somehow reach British soil they would be freed. Slaves were starting to run away and there had been rebellions.
    In November 1775, with the Revolution breaking out, Virginia’s last British governor, Lord Dunsmore, offered any slave willing to fight for the crown their freedom and land to farm; he had already threatened the Colonists that he might free the slaves in April 1775 should any harm come to Williamsburg. Meanwhile, Revolutionary recruiters in Georgia and South Carolina were promising white soldiers a slave at the end of their service. Needless to say, Colonial slaves saw where their best hope for freedom lay and acted upon it.
    In South Carolina, two-thirds of slaves escaped following Dunsmore’s proclamation. Thirty thousand slaves fled Virginia. Although fewer than 1,000 former slaves actually served the British as soldiers, at least 20,000 defected or allowed themselves to be captured and many served in other capacities. By the end of the war, out of a total slave population of 450,000 in the colonies, approximately 100,000 had escaped, died, or were killed in battle.
    At the conclusion of the war Great Britain resettled approximately 12,000 of the former slaves in Nova Scotia and the West Indies. About half who settled in Nova Scotia eventually chose to resettle in Sierra Leone. However, Britain returned escaped slaves to former owners who had remained loyal to the crown.
    Near the outset of the war George Washington allowed free blacks with military experience to join the Continental Army. A year later he expanded that to include all free blacks. Soon after Congress voted to allow slaves to serve, but no Southern state agreed save for Maryland.
    Approximately 5,000 blacks, both free and slave, served in the Continental Army. Many slaves were given their freedom, but others who had been promised freedom were instead returned to slavery.
    Lord Dunsmore’s actions obviously backfired horrendously. His intention was to frighten Southerners away from joining in what was mostly a Northeastern rebellion. Instead he caused many Southerners who would otherwise be loyal to the Crown to join in the Revolution. Slaveowners joined to protect their economic interests, and the intensely Loyalist backcountry residents of Virginia and the Carolinas were frightened at the thought of tens of thousands of armed former slaves roaming the countryside and switched their allegiance to the Continental cause.
    Our high school history books don’t tell this version of events because victors like to paint themselves in the most flattering light possible. We live in a world of myth, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Perhaps most of those who joined in the American Revolution did so in pursuit of the high-minded ideals stated in the Declaration of Independence. But in the South many were motivated, at least in part, out of a fear of abolition and a desire to maintain legal slavery.
    So the bottom line is that the war many believe was fought to end slavery wasn’t; and the American Revolution, with all of its high-minded ideals, was also fought by some to preserve slavery.
    Those who insist on denouncing those who served the Confederacy while praising those who served in the Revolution need to delve a little deeper into America’s not-always-pretty history. Life is complicated.
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Sources: Was the American Revolution Fought to Save Slavery?

INSTITUTE INDEX: Slavery and the American Revolution

Dunmore’s Proclamation
How fears of a slave revolt drew the South into the war—the Revolutionary War