Saturday, February 2, 2019

Catholic smiles are just smiles; MAGA hats don't turn them into smirks

Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann tries to suppress a smile after an Indian walks up and starts beating a drum in his face.

    The drumbeat heard around the world continues to reverberate, as social media and newspaper op-ed writers remain all atwitter over images of a smiling Catholic boy wearing a MAGA hat while some Indian pounds a drum an inch from his face.
    The Smiling Nick Sandmann has been declared a racist and every possible disparaging name imaginable; national figures have urged people to beat him up and he's received a massive number of death threats. His school, Covington Catholic in Covington, Ky., has been portrayed as in incubator of racism and evil. Many commenters retracted their defamatory comments about Sandmann after receiving additional information, but others continue to vilify both him and his school.
    I happen to believe the smiling Nick Sandmann is a good kid who simply stood in one place while approached by a crazy Indian beating a drum. Video of the event clearly shows Sandman just standing there with a silly grin on his face sort of taking in the surreal situation. When attacked by the Indian he can be seen trying without success to suppress a smile.
    Others, including a number of gay writers, have written very seriously that what Sandmann was doing was not smiling, but a demonstration of what they call the Catholic-schoolboy “smirk.” Apparently Catholic schoolboys, and only Catholic schoolboys, spend all of their spare time perfecting their smirks. Said Esquire writer Dave Holmes: “We’ve seen it in our own personal histories, if we have ever been that terrifying combination of young and different in any way.”
    Holmes, who is gay, was writing about his unhappy time in a Missouri Catholic school during the early 1990s, when homosexual activity was considered a crime in that state. The Catholic church still maintains, rightly or wrongly, that homosexual activity is a sin, so I don't doubt that Holmes may have had a difficult time. But that doesn't make every smiling Catholic schoolboy an evil smirker.
    The claim has repeatedly and falsely been made that Covington Catholic School is a “segregation academy,” which is quite impossible given that it is located in a virtually all-white county. The argument of leftists making this claim is that Cincinnati whites fleeing school integration moved to various almost-all-white suburban counties. By operating or expanding their existing schools Catholics were therefore operating “segregation academies.” By that definition the local public schools in these counties would be considered “segregation academies,” too. The thought process behind this way of thinking is beyond my ken: you cannot have white flight or a segregation academy unless there is some group to flee or segregate oneself from. In almost-all-white counties there is simply no racial group to flee.
    My personal experience and common sense tell me that the Catholic schools of Northern Kentucky were not created to promote segregation or avoid integrated local schools. Most of these Catholic schools were founded in the early 1900s with a few going back to before the war. Prior to the Brown v. Board of Education decision about a third of the region's schoolchildren attended parochial schools, one of the highest rates in the nation; obviously they weren't fleeing integration since there was no integration to flee.
    The Catholic Church essentially stands alone in trying to organize its churches so that people of all races and all social classes will worship together in the same church, while most Protestant churches are segregated on the basis of both economic status and race. It's common to see multiple Protestant churches of the same denomination in small towns, each serving a different racial or socio-economic group. The Catholic Church would never allow such a thing. Civil-rights activist Lawrence Guyot described how the Catholic church integrated its schools: “The Catholic Church in 1957 or '58 made a decision that they were going to desegregate the schools. They did it this way. The announcement was we have two programs. We have excommunication and we have integration. Make your choice by Friday.”
    Catholics often do bad things. They sin. So do Protestants, Jews, Mormons, atheists, and everyone else. Those wishing to criticize any Catholic school or its students will find no shortage of ammunition, but they aren't operating segregation academies.
    And as a general rule a Catholic smile is just that; it's a smile. There are a plentitude of types of smiles: nervous smiles, happy smiles, sad smiles, conspiratorial smiles, threatening smiles, this-is-ridiculous smiles, and yes, even smirks. Smiling isn't limited to Catholics; people of all faiths smile and sometimes they may even smirk. But those who see every Catholic smile as a smirk are just paranoid.
    In the end a Catholic school is just that and nothing more, without nefarious intent by those who operate or attend them. A schoolboy who smiles is just smiling. Being Catholic didn't make Nick Sandmann's nervous smile a “smirk,” nor did wearing a MAGA hat.
   Those who have criticized Sandmann, his school, or his schoolmates have displayed a malevolence of spirit that is frightening. For these evil people I have just one thing more to say: I smirk in your general direction.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Seventy bucks and 90 minutes results in some pretty nifty under-counter lights.

Lights installed.
Lights off except for microwave, which is weak. Note that it is daytime, so plenty of natural light. It's darker at night.

    I'm not Mr. Handy when it comes to home improvements, but I just invested 90 minutes to install some pretty nifty under-counter lighting in a house I've been fixing up.
Click to enlarge
    I had some contractors doing some work on the kitchen, and the Sheet rock was off the walls, so having properly wired under-counter lighting would have been easy. But it still would have taken several hours to do the wiring, expenses were piling up, and I decided the kitchen was bright enough, and that the light underneath the microwave, along with 300 watts in the ceiling and a bright LED over the kitchen sink was enough.
    And indeed all of that lighting was enough; except it wasn't. I really like under-counter lighting and just wanted more light.
    I was fortunate that we installed an electrical outlet in the cabinet over the stove to plug in the microwave; this provided a power source. For my actual lights I purchased two Commercial Electric brand LED under cabinet lights. These lights come with a detachable plug and are linkable. A small linking cord is provided, but it's possible to buy longer linking cords.
    I didn't want a linking cord running underneath the microwave as it might be visible and I didn't like the idea of an electrical cord running over the stove. So I ran cords up the back of each cabinet from each light up to the outlet over the microwave and plugged them into a very small power strip. Since the cord was detachable I was able to drill a fairly small hole in the cabinets using a 5/8" spade bit. The lights are held in place by little plastic brackets. Installation was easy; I spent almost an hour putting in the first light because I had to think about things, but the second one was installed the next day in less than 20 minutes, and that includes the time to drill the holes.
    The lights have a “high” and “low” setting and can be switched on and off by the switch on each light. I've ordered a wireless “light” switch that I can stick on the wall that will turn the power on and off at the outlet. It hasn't arrived yet, but when it does the lights will work just like hard-wired lights. They have a color temperature of 3,000, which is slightly starker than "warm white," but still easy on the eye with no blue tint found in "daylight" bulbs. I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, although I'm shopping for some brighter lights for the microwave.
    As for cost, the lights were $23 each; the mini power strip was something like $8. The wireless wall switch cost $19, for a total project cost of less than $70 after tax.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Public hangings are not lynchings and Hyde-Smith's statement, while unwise, was not racist

    Mississippi's newly appointed candidate-Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith is being roundly criticized for a comment caught on video in which she states that her admiration for a supporter is such that she would attend a public hanging for the him if he asked her to.
    The comment is actually complex, but Hyde-Smith is being accused of racism in light of the fact that Mississippi is known for having a high number of lynchings. Of course, by definition a public hanging is considered a governmental execution having nothing to do with lynching, so these criticisms of Hyde-Smith are bogus. Her statement was unwise, but by no means racist.
    The video above shows preparations for a public hanging that was to be held in Wolf City, Wyoming, in 1894. Obviously if a public hanging were tantamount to a lynching Nat King Cole, who just happened to have been black, wouldn't have been so happily singing about the event.
    Until the 1930s public hangings were common throughout the United States, and Mississippi was no different. A botched hanging in 1932 caused public sentiment in Mississippi to turn against hanging, which led to the introduction of the electric chair in 1940 (oddly enough, botched executions today don't cause so much upset). For a number of years Mississippi's electric chair was actually held up nationally as a more humane method of execution, but it was subject to malfunction, causing agonizing death. The electric chair, known as “Ol' Sparky,” was portable since the citizens of Sunflower County didn't want to be known as the Death County, and was used for about a dozen years, from 1940 to 1954, when Gov. Hugh White rammed through a law establishing a gas chamber at Parchman.
    I suspect, based on Cindy Hyde-Smith's statement and my own research that at some point attending a public hanging became something upstanding citizens just did not do. Assuming this is true, her statement makes sense, although I think it's important to note that I think it's a phrase she picked up from a grandparent or grand-uncle or other community members.
    The video of her statement is limited and I can't understand everything she says, but she's just talking informally praising a supporter and says, “If he invited me to a public hanging I'd be on the front row.”
    If you parse her statement out she is saying that few things are more distasteful to her than the thought of attending a public hanging, but she holds her friend in such high regard that if he invited her she would sit on the front row. Her statement is a witticism that most people can simply no longer comprehend. But she's no more supporting lynching than Nat King Cole was in his song.
    The fact is that the overwhelming majority of white people associate hanging and nooses with the Old West and the types of Hanging Days featured in the Nat King Cole video, not with lynching. For blacks the association is obviously different and as a politician Hyde-Smith should have been smart enough to anticipate that.
    My preference in this election was Chris McDaniel. I happen to think Mike Espy is a good man and if elected would be one of the more conservative Democrats in the Senate; but he would still be a Democrat. So I will be voting for Hyde-Smith and hope that she can update her repertoire of Southern aphorisms, although in doing so our language will become less rich and enjoyable.
    In any event, her statement clearly wasn't racist and those who accuse her of racism are engaging in the worst kind of jackassery. Her statement might have been stupid, but racist it was not.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Using a courtesy title in a debate would have cost DeSantis nothing, but failure to do so may be costly

    If I lived in Florida I’d be voting for Republican Ron DeSantis for the Senate. I think Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is going to try to turn Florida into another California, and he has some crime and corruption problems lurking just beneath the surface.
    But Gillum was right to call DeSantis out for failing to refer to his as “Mayor” or “Mister” during debates, instead only calling him “Andrew.” Gillum always referred to DeSantis as “Congressman” or “Mister.”
    When Sarah Palin debated Joe Biden in the 2012 vice-presidential debate she walked across the stage and shook his hand and said, “Can I call you ‘Joe’?” Well of course he had no choice, and both used first names during the debate. Supposedly Palin kept accidentally saying “O’Biden” during rehearsals and was afraid she might do so during the actual debate. If DeSantis had asked Gillum permission to use his first name Gillum would have had to grudgingly agree, but DeSantis never asked.
    Prior to 1965 the number of white gentiles in the South who would willingly address a black person, regardless of rank or wealth, as “Mister” probably wouldn’t fill a conference room. It just wasn’t done. Surely DeSantis is aware of this.
    As an attorney my father always addressed his clients as “Mr.” or “Mrs.;” for many it was the first time they had been addressed in that fashion in their life, and Dad shared a few humorous stories about various reactions he received. A law school classmate who researched transcripts of the Congressional voting rights hearings held in every Mississippi county, in which almost every attorney took part, said my father was the only North Mississippi attorney she noted who addressed black witnesses as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” in 1965.
    A story my father shared with us frequently when we were growing up was about buying the land where I grew up from the widow of the black Methodist bishop, a Mrs. Cottrell, who lived in St. Louis. In the 1950s, people actually conducted business by letter, so my father wrote her and asked if she wanted to sell the land, and after several exchanges of letters they reached a deal. Dad traveled to St. Louis to close the trade, and after getting the deed my father asked her why she decided to sell him the land, since he knew a number of people had tried unsuccessfully to buy it.
    “Well Mr. Hurdle,” she responded, “I did receive a number of letters from people asking about that property. Their letters always started out ‘Dear Babe (her nickname).’ I didn’t even know those people and I just wasn’t very interested in doing business with them. When I opened your letter the first words I read were ‘Dear Mrs. Cottrell’ and I thought, ‘This might be a man I can do business with.’ ”
    I should note that my father was not a wild-eyed liberal; he was a Roosevelt Democrat, more moderate than most Mississippians at the time, but anyone from outside the South would have considered him quite conservative. But courtesy was free and so he gave it freely.
    Perhaps DeSantis would have treated a white opponent exactly as he treated Gillum. It’s not unheard of for politicians to refer to their opponents by their first name. But for DeSantis not to realize how his behavior would be received is just an amazing display of tone-deafness.
    Courtesy titles, like courtesy, are free, and DeSantis displayed an amazing stinginess of spirit that likely did him no good with most of the voters. I don’t think Gillum will be good for Florida, but DeSantis’ actions may have given him the extra boost he needed to be elected governor.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

I oppose renaming the journalism building, but to describe Ida Wells as 'reporter' misses the mark

Wells
    There is a proposal to rename the journalism building at Ole Miss after Ida Well, a native of Holly Springs. I am opposed and  find the proposal ironic, since Ed Meek, for whom the building is currently named, was the victim of a modern-day lynching insofar as his reputation is concerned. Wells was one of the first, most prominent, and most outspoken opponents of lynching in the South.

    With that said, the AP story which told of the effort to rename the building described Wells as a "reporter." That's like describing Ronald Reagan as a radio announcer. Wells was an amazing woman, one of the most important to come out of Mississippi in the 19th Century. I don't remember being taught about Wells in school even though she was from Holly Springs; I hope that is still not the case. Even though I don't support the renaming of the building, she certainly has a record of accomplishment that is worthy of admiration.
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    Ida Wells, who was born and reared in Holly Springs, was born into slavery in 1862. Her father was owned by Spires Bolling, an architect whose homes were known for featuring octagonal columns. He also built the Walter Place, with its unusual octagonal wings on each end. The Wells family lived at the Bolling Place, which was later the Gatewood home, and is now the site of the Ida B. Wells-Barnett Museum, which features the signature octagonal columns.
    Wells, who lost both parents to the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1878, struggled to support and keep her younger siblings together by working as a schoolteacher. Her frustration over receiving $30 per month while white teachers were paid $80 per month led her to become active in a movement to seek equal pay for black teachers, which led to her firing, after which she moved to Memphis.
    In May 1884, Wells refused to give up her seat on a Tennessee train and move to another rail car; when the conductor tried to forcibly move her she bit his hand. She was thrown off the train and successfully sued the train company, obtaining a $500 judgment in circuit court. The Tennessee Supreme Court overturned this judgment in 1887 and assessed Wells $200 in costs. This case was later cited as support by the U.S. Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), which found that segregation laws were not unconstitutional under the "separate but equal" doctrine which remained controlling law until Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).
    (An interesting note is that Plessy v. Ferguson was a "friendly" lawsuit carefully coordinated between Plessy and the railroad company, both of whom believed that the Supreme Court would find Louisiana's forced segregation laws unconstitutional. The railroad company wanted Plessy to prevail, as it did not want the expense of having to maintain two sets of passenger cars. Plessy was one-eighth African and seven-eighths European).
    In 1889, Wells, who was working in Memphis as a schoolteacher, became owner of the Free Speech and Headlight, a newspaper published out of the Beale Street Baptist Church. Her opposition to segregation and articles decrying the poor condition of black schools led to her firing in 1891.
    Also in 1889, three of Wells' friends were lynched, which led her to become active in the national anti-lynching movement, in which she often collaborated with W.E.B. Du Bois and Frederick Douglas. In 1892, she published a famous anti-lynching pamphlet, "Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases."
    On May 27, 1892, a white mob destroyed the offices of Wells' newspaper. Because of threats on her life she soon moved to Chicago, where she wrote articles for the New York Observer and began to work for the Chicago Conservator, that city's oldest black newspaper.
    During the 1890s Wells traveled extensively to promote civil rights, including trips to Europe. In 1909 Wells was one of seven black and 53 white founders of the NAACP. In later life she retreated from the national spotlight somewhat as she devoted herself to family life, although she remained active in support of civil rights throughout her life until her death in 1931.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Violent and angry Democrats are unhinged, violent, and a danger to our republic



    We’ve now had almost two years of unremitting violence against Republicans perpetrated by Democrats and various Democratic political action groups, along with the Democratic paramilitary wing, Antifa. Amazingly, Democrats seem to be very proud of all the beatings they’ve been administering to Republicans.
    We’ve just been through a judicial confirmation process for Brett Kavanaugh that was an absolute circus. Democrats paid protesters to scream and shout down senators and congressmen as they tried to do their jobs. Many were threatened, and armed guards became the order of the day. During all the commotion one congressman ended up with a bruised wrist from women barging into his office. A Democratic staffer published home phone numbers and addresses of several Republican senators on the Internet.
    When Democrats found they were not going to be able to stop Kavanaugh’s confirmation they released a bogus rape claim that they had been keeping secret for almost two months. The Democrats knew the claim wasn’t true; that’s why they kept it secret instead of allowing it to be properly investigated. By sitting on it they could spring it at the last minute to delay the confirmation; of course, then they wailed that Republicans weren’t allowing enough time for it to be properly investigated, the purpose being to delay, not find the truth.
Angry Dems attack Supreme Court
    The result was what we all saw on television or on Internet news feeds, with hired shills running up and down the halls of Congress haranguing key Senators and threatening their families. Following Kavanaugh’s confirmation a mob of angry Democrats actually tried to break down the doors and storm the Supreme Court, something I don’t believe has ever happened in the history of our republic.
    From the moment Donald Trump was elected various celebrities and members of the press started spewing vitriolic rhetoric that stopped just a millimeter away from urging violence against Republicans or Trump supporters. Sometimes they crossed the line, and from time to time assassination of various politicians was suggested, after which we would hear a “just kidding!”
    The Democratic base apprehended the message. Across the nation Trump supporters have been savagely attacked and beaten by Democrats on a regular basis. Sometimes they haven’t been beaten, just shoved and had their MAGA hats stolen. That’s still an assault and still a crime. The Democratic paramilitary wing, Antifa, now completely controls portions of  Portland and beats or harasses Republicans on sight, but Antifa can be found throughout the West Coast and occasionally elsewhere, and wherever they are they are extremely violent. The level of violence and civil unrest being perpetrated by Democrats against Republicans is simply unprecedented.
Scalise following shooting
by Democratic activist
    The suggestion that Republicans should be assassinated led one Democrat to try. Democratic activist James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Ill., tried to take out 24 Congressmen who were practicing for the annual Congressional baseball game on June 14, 2017. In all likelihood he would have killed most or all of the 24 who were there had it not been for the fact that Steve Scalice had a top leadership position and was thus accompanied by capitol police who were able to take down the shooter. Scalice was seriously wounded but survived. The Virginia attorney general said the shooter was “fueled by rage against Republican legislators,” and while he didn’t blame Democrats and the press, it’s pretty obvious where the blame lays.
    A host of Republicans have been driven out of restaurants, theaters, and other public places, from public officials to everyday people wearing political hats or t-shirts; the Red Hen ejection of Sarah Sanders is just a very tiny tip of a very large iceberg. Elected Democrats such as Rep. Maxine Waters and Sen. Cory Booker have urged Democrats to harass Republicans when they see them in public. Such harassment can easily spill over into violence, and in fact it frequently does. Perhaps some Democrat somewhere, sometime has been mistreated, but never, ever on this scale or magnitude.
    The sad fact is that the Democrats in this country have become completely unhinged. Many are, if not violent, on the edge of violence, running around screaming in people’s faces; they are dangerous. And they have left mainstream America with a level of weirdness that is mind-boggling. When Democratic women started marching around with pink hats designed to look like vaginas on their heads, I thought they were freaks. This year they got rid of the vagina hats on the grounds that the hats weren’t inclusive enough,because “some women have penises.” I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. They quit wearing the vagina hats because they didn't want to hurt the feelings of women who had penises. To me, these women have just gone from being freaks to well  beyond the orbit of Planet Freak.
    Some people still vote for Democrats just because their father, mother, or grandfather voted for Democrats, but this ain’t Roosevelt’s party anymore; it's not even Obama's party anymore. It's not just a matter of Republicans being beaten up on a regular basis, although that is certainly a problem. America is under attack by a bunch of extremely violent Democrats and women with penises. If they should prevail, our republic will perish.
    To those very few normal people who still vote for Democrats, are these really the types of people you want to associate with?
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Many people have pointed out that Donald Trump urged his supporters to take action against protesters at his rallies. An undercover investigation found that the Clinton campaign hired people, often the homeless and mentally ill, to go to Trump rallies and start fights. In any event, it is a crime to disrupt a private political rally and those who do so are guilty of trespassing. Anyone disrupting a rally may be stopped with reasonable, violent force. Their coats should also be kept. Therefore, it is perfectly legitimate to advocate violence against criminal trespassers to the extent necessary to prevent them from disrupting the rally.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

If you have stopped taking a statin drug because of side effects, try again with low-dose Crestor

The lowest dose of Crestor does most of the work. Increasing from 5 to 40 mg, an eight-fold increase, only results in about a 40 percent increase in cholesterol reduction.
    A lot of people are prescribed cholesterol-lowering statin drugs by their doctors and stop taking them because of unwanted side-effects, such as muscle pain. There is a lot better solution than simply not taking the drugs: just take them less often or at a much lower dose.
    My cholesterol has been hovering between 200 and 240 for my entire adult life, and my doctor has suggested several times that I take Crestor. A few years ago he gave me enough samples of 20mg Crestor to last six months, but I didn’t take them. Crestor was still on-patent at the time; I probably could have made money peddling my pills around nursing homes.
    After my last cholesterol screening my doctor's nurse called to tell me that he was prescribing me 10 mg Crestor to be taken every day. When I mentioned that I would rather just take it a couple of times a week she told me that he would have to increase the dosage to 20 mg., so I settled for the 10 mg every-day Crestor. Arguing with a doctor's nurse if futile.
    You can lead a man to pills but you can’t make him take them; I ended up taking the 10 mg Crestor about once a week, maybe a little more. There is a reason for my reticence in not wanted to take 10 mg of Crestor every day. Some years back I listened to a radio program which described Crestor as being the very strongest and most effective statin on the market; the downside to that is that it tended to have more side effects at higher doses. The point was made on the show that patients are usually best served by taking a very low dose of a powerful statin -- and Crestor is the strongest -- than a higher dose of a less-powerful one.
    One study found that 5mg of Crestor daily reduced LDL-C by 39% and non-HDL-C by 35%;  10 mg reduced LDL-C by 44% and non-HDL-C by 40%; 20 mg reduced LDL-C by 50% and non-HDL-C by 45%; 40 mg reduced LDL-C by 55% and non-HDL-C by 50%. Note that while high doses of Crestor do cause a greater reduction in cholesterol, the reduction is by no means linear. Increasing the 5 mg dose by 300 percent only results in a 30 percent increase in cholesterol reduction; a 700 percent dosage increase only increases efficacy by 40 percent. On the other hand drug toxicity, as measured by the occurrence and severity of side effects, rises with the dosage in a more-or-less linear fashion.
    Now for the takeaway. I’ve been taking 10mg of Crestor once every five to seven days for several months. I just had my total cholesterol checked for free at Wal-Mart and the result was 136, down from 206 in March. I still need to get a full cholesterol check, but that number confirms that a very low dose of Crestor can have a tremendous effect on lowering cholesterol. In Japan Crestor is marketed with a 2.5 mg dosage; sadly, we don’t have that option, but it is possible to use a pill splitter, and that’s what I’m likely to start doing after my next doctor’s visit.
    I’m not sure I will burden my doctor with the fact that I plan to split a 5 mg Crestor; I’ll just do it and check my cholesterol after a couple of months. In all likelihood it will be lower than 136, which should be plenty low.
    To anyone who has quit taking their statin drug because of unwanted side effects, I would suggest starting them again with a lower dose, either by taking them every other or every third day or with the use of a pill splitter, or both. Ask for low-dose Crestor if your doctor will cooperate; make your own low-dose Crestor regimen if he won't.