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.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Mississippi invention Comeback Sauce is easy to make; try my version and you may thank me

I snatched this photo off the web just to make people hungry! My sauce was a little thicker and darker.

    There wasn’t anything much to eat in the house last night so I boiled a bag of frozen shrimp that we had in the freezer. While the shrimp were thawing I searched the Internet for a recipe for Comeback Sauce. Comeback Sauce originated Mississippi, being introduced and then copied in several Jackson restaurants. The Mayflower Cafe is often cited as having an outstanding Comeback Sauce, although it apparently didn't originate there.
    All recipes for Comeback Sauce contain chili sauce as one of the ingredients. I had never even heard of Heinz chili sauce before researching this recipe. I wonder how many other grocery items are lurking out there, being seen but not seen as I walk down the aisles?
    I’ve made Comeback Sauce once or twice before, but I’ve never been able to remember which recipe I used. Last night I found one on the Grillax website which I thought was pretty good (the website also has more of the Mississippi history of the Comeback Sauce). It’s quick and easy to make. I changed the recipe a little and have noted my changes below the recipe:

Comeback Sauce

1 clove chopped garlic
1 cup mayonaise
1/4 cup chili sauce
1 tsp. dry mustard
½ cup corn oil
½ t. Wocestershire sauce
1 t. black pepper
1t. paprika
½ t. onion powder
2 Tbl. lemon juice
1 t. water
Dash of hot sauce

Put all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Store in airtight container in refrigerator. Make the day before or a few hours in advance if possible.

My changes
    I followed the recipe above but used extra garlic out of a tube (probably two cloves worth) a generous teaspoon of dry mustard, a scant ½ cup of oil, a teaspoon or more of Worcestershire sauce, extra hot sauce (I used Tobasco), and I omitted the water. I also added a teaspoon of white pepper. So here are the ingredients in list form with my changes.

Comeback Sauce (Col. Reb version)

1.5 to 2 cloves chopped garlic
1 cup mayonaise
1/4 cup Heinz chili sauce
1 ½ tsp. dry mustard
A scant ½ cup corn oil
1 t. Wocestershire sauce (slightly more to taste)
1 t. black pepper
1 t. white pepper
1t. paprika
½ t. onion powder
2 Tbl. lemon juice
Several dashes of Tobasco

    This recipe makes a pretty generous amount, so it would be pretty easy to make this according to the “official” recipe, split in half, and then add a dab of mustard, Worcestershire, Tobasco, garlic, and a half-teaspoon of white pepper. A taste test could then determine which recipe was the “best.” I was very happy with my version.
    The beauty of this sauce is that it is quick and easy to make, and everyone can modify it slightly to suit their own tastes. I know that since I’ve started eating shrimp with Comeback Sauce the jar of cocktail sauce has remained unused.

Friday, July 6, 2018

America: A family, a business partnership, a Chamber of Commerce, and a labor union all in one

    The Fourth of July has passed, but I think it might be helpful to think about how we view ourselves as a nation. America is a nation of people bound together by a common past, common struggles, and hopefully a common hope for her success in the world.
    • We should view America like an extended family. As the old saying goes, “You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.” Maybe you don’t like or approve of every relative you have, but you still love them and try to help them when you can.
    • We should view America like a business partnership, in which every partner is expected to produce income for the firm. New partners – immigrants – are brought in only when it is believed highly likely that they will generate more income for existing partners they take out in benefits.
    • We should view America as both a Chamber of Commerce and a giant labor union; as a nation we should promote business and industry, but at the same time we should protect the quality of life of our workers and keep out scab labor, otherwise known as low-skilled immigrants.
    There is nothing wrong with helping another family in need, of course, but that can be done without allowing them to take up residence in one’s own home! Some people feel a religious obligation to help foreigners in need, but it is just as easy and actually more effective to help these people in their own country than in our own. There truly is no need to destroy America by allowing in a bunch of criminals and welfare cases.
    America has plenty of room to add highly productive immigrants to our family, our partnership, and our labor pool. And we have plenty of room for improvement in helping our own family members -- our own current citizens -- to become good and useful members of society.
    Our future as a nation depends on immigration control and a willingness to work together to improve the lives of our current citizens.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

It wasn't the Red Hen's refusal of service, but the breach of Hospitium that is the true evil

Lot offered his daughters to the mob rather than breach Hospitium
    In a cluck heard around the nation if not the world the owner of the Lexington, Va., Red Hen restaurant kicked Sarah Huckabee Sanders out of her small, gourmet establishment because of her work for President Trump last weekend.
    Owner Stephanie Wilkinson claims the staff called her at home to tell her of Sanders' arrival (the reservation was in her husband's name), and she told them to go ahead and seat the party until she could arrive to make sure it was really her. When she arrived the Sanders party had already been served drinks and placed their order, and was eating a first course of bread and cheese.
    The owner told Sanders to leave and her party did with everyone but Sanders and her husband going to a neighboring restaurant. The Red Hen owner reportedly gathered a small crowd to follow the group and heckle them outside their new restaurant. A Red Hen waiter gloatingly posted on Facebook about the whole affair.
Wilkinson with family
    The owner is quite up front about what she did; there is only one point that I doubt about her narrative. She said she told the employees to wait for her to arrive to “be sure” is was Sanders. I think her purpose of having Sanders seated was so she could arrive and have the pleasure of giving Sanders a piece of her mind while ejecting her.
    From the beginning it was this mid-meal ejection that bothered me more than would a simple turning away at the door. The reason for my visceral loathing of the Red Hen owner has dawned on me: she breached one of society's most ancient obligations, that of Hospitium, or the divine obligation of hosts to not only not attack, but to protect those under their roofs whom they have extended hospitality. Sanders had already been offered food and drink by the Red Hen; for her host to attack her was an unpardonable sin.
    I can already hear the leftists poo-pooing this notion, but it is an obligation as old as civilization. After the Muslim victory at the Battle of Hattin, the victorious Saladin brought the Christian King of Jerusalem into his tent and offered him water. The king then attempted to share the water with a nobleman who had murdered many Muslims and Saladin struck the goblet from his hand, stating that he was not offering him drink or protection under his roof. The king's life was spared while the noble was executed.
    Genesis 19 tells the story of Lot being visited by two Angels in the wicked city of Sodom. Word of this visit soon spreads and a mob arrived demanding that the visitors be turned out so that the crowd of men might rape them. So strong is the obligation of Hospitium that Lot's response was to offer the mob his two virgin daughters instead, an offer the crowd refused, at which point the Angles struck them blind.
    In recent popular culture, Hospitium is referred to as Guest Right throughout the Game of Thrones series, and it comes into being any time one is offered and consumes food and drink under another's roof, which is very much the traditional form of Hospitium. Guest Right is shockingly ignored by Walder Frey when he orders the slaughter of Robb Stark, his family, and his army at a wedding feast. The act was considered unspeakably evil, even by those who benefited from it. Following this act the Frey family was cursed.
    I believe the concept of Guest Right is genetically encoded, and that for most of us its violation is morally unfathomable. But there have always been and will be mutants among us who are genetically deficient in some way or another, or who have perhaps been programmed to overcome their genetically encoded morals.
    The owner of the Red Hen and those who support her are, very simply, Freys. Their very existence is a blight upon humanity. The Game of Thrones milieu is filled with imperfect and sometimes bad people, but none are more evil than the Freys. The House of Frey was cursed and those who would be modern-day Freys will find themselves to be equally reviled.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Policy debates should be about helping Americans, not declaring others un-Christian

    “It’s the Christian thing to do.”
    This was the pronouncement of a top Democrat who insisted that Hillary Clinton return refund $1.65 million that the Democratic National Committee paid for Clinton’s email list just over a year ago. Such arrangements are not uncommon, as politicians carefully guard their mailing lists as one of their most valuable assets. Barrack Obama eventually donated his email list to the DNC, but not until 2015.
    Since purchasing the mailing list the DNC has used it to raise more than $30 million for the party. So the purchase was a great deal. But the Republican party has been far outraising Democrats. While individual Democrats have been very successful in fund-raising, the RNC has far outpaced them in both fund-raising and hoarding cash. The RNC currently has about $43 million in cash on hand with no debt; the DNC has about $10 million in cash coupled with $6 million in debt.
    And so the Democrats want their money back, and one spokesman has said their demand is ordained by Jesus Christ, and should Hillary not comply with it she is a apparently a bad Christian.
    Bollocks!
    Nowhere in the Bible is there a command to give money to either the Republican or Democrat party. Choosing to abide by the terms of a mutually beneficial contract doesn’t make one a bad Christian. But the far-left has taken to declaring anything they don’t like un-Christian, so it’s not surprising that one would hear such a ridiculous statement concerning Hillary’s email list.
    The Left adopted a policy some years back of infiltrating Christian churches in an effort to hijack the Christian faith. They have been remarkably successful in tying left-wing social policy to Christianity. Thus we are told that tax cuts are un-Christian; cuts in social spending are un-Christian; failure to support an open-borders policy which will destroy our nation is un-Christian; and so forth, ad nauseam, to the point that now failure to give millions to the DNC is un-Christian.
    If tax cuts are un-Christian then leftists should be able to tell us exactly what level of taxation is Christian. If cuts in social spending are un-Christian then exactly what level of social spending is Christian? If support for immigration control is un-Christian, they why do God and Jesus suggest otherwise in the Bible? Why would Jesus advocate policies which are certain to destroy America when the Bible insists that good rulers protect their subjects?
    As a nation the people of the United States have generally shared civic values that have absolutely nothing to do with Christianity or the Bible. It’s possible to support good or bad public policy without being a good or bad Christian.
    Our federal system of government is one of dual sovereignty: our first duty is to our federal government to the extent such duties are spelled out in our Constitution; our second duty is to our states (actually our first duty is to our states, but since they have ceded authority to the federal government we are bound to honor this concession). We likewise have a duty of dual moral fealty; first to God, for those things specifically spelled out in the Bible, and then to our civic polity for everything else. Most things we as Americans support or oppose have nothing to do with Christianity; they are instead arguments about civic values and how to best implement them.
    Three years ago Southern Baptists voted to condemn the Confederate flag, with no allowance made for the fact that the flag might mean different things to different people. At the same meeting the denomination elected Steve Gaines as its president. As pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church Gaines allowed an associate pastor credibly accused of pressuring his teenage son to engage in sexual activity with him for more than a year to continue in his job for more than six months after learning of the abuse. Even more appalling, the associate pastor’s job was to counsel victims of domestic and sexual abuse.
    To suggest that the display of the Confederate flag is un-Christian is heresy. Whether or not such display is right or wrong is determined by one’s personal motivation for such display. If to honor one’s ancestral parents, then such display is ordained by the Ten Commandments; if displayed out of a sense of hate for others then it is a sin.
    The decision to elect Steve Gaines as SBC president is another matter. For most his tolerance for incestuous child abuse violates both our sense of civic morality and our sense of Christian morality, not to mention the law. How can an organization that would elect such a man deem itself worthy to lecture the rest of us on what Christians should or should not do?
    Civic polity requires us to support laws and policies that operate to the benefit of our fellow citizens. Such a view is in concordance with the teachings of Jesus and the Bible. However, absent bad or evil intentions, no public policy decision is either Christian nor un-Christian.
    There is no such thing as corporate Christianity. Taxation of the wealthy to support the poor may very well be good public policy; but support for such taxation is neither Christian nor un-Christian. Only personal action taken with one’s own effort or assets allow one to meet Christ’s mandate to help the poor. Those who donate their time, energy, and money to help the poor are engaged in Christian behavior. Mere support for government spending to help the poor is not Christian at all.
    Our motivations for supporting various public policies can be Christian or un-Christian, but the policies themselves simply can’t be. To simply label a policy decision as un-Christian is to bear false witness against another, a violation of the Ten Commandments which is, in fact, un-Christian.
    As a general rule a Christian argument can be made for or against almost any public policy, which is why I think such debates should focus not on religion, but what is best for the American people and nation.

Monday, April 9, 2018

On April 10 Daily Getaways offers Choice Hotel points for a half-cent each; run don't walk for this deal

    If you like to travel on the cheap, dailygetaways.com offers heavily discounted hotel points along with other travel offers starting today. The annual promotion goes on for five weeks, which is two weeks longer than previous years.
    Points on offer include those from Hilton, IHG (Holiday Inn), and Choice. Marriott isn’t included in the first two weeks, but will likely be added later. If you want to buy some of these really cheap points the first thing you need to do is have a membership in the corresponding loyalty club; so do that right now!
    In my view, the best offer by far is the Choice Hotels points being offered for just under one-half cent per point; this is almost a 20 percent increase over last year’s price, but these are still a great deal. The Choice brand includes 11 mostly down-market hotel chains, although included in that is the semi-luxury Ascend Collection and the usually reliable Comfort and Sleep Inns. On the lower end are the EconoLodge and Rodeway Inn. Yes, you can earn points for staying at an EconoLodge.
    Even though the Choice hotel brand doesn’t include the most luxurious hotel brands, this point offer (and their loyalty program) offers great value. I’ve been buying these points since 2011, when I paid just over a third of a cent per point, thanks to a no-longer-offered American Express discount. That summer I was able to book four rooms in Venice, Italy for 10,000 points per room, or $35 per night. To understand what a value this is, do a search for Venice hotel rooms.
    Not every hotel offers rooms for only 10,000 points, as redemptions cost as much as 30,000 points per night, and 25,000 per night is common. But on the top end rooms in New York City at a Cambria or Comfort hotel go for 25-30,000 per night, so with these discounted points the cost per night would be $125 to $150 per night. For New York City that’s not a bad deal. Last fall I booked a room in Tuscaloosa on a ballgame weekend for 25,000 points when the going rate was roughly $350 per night. Choice frequently puts one or two European countries on “sale” for lowered point amounts. Right now rooms in Paris can be had for as little as 12,000 points per night and rooms in London near Hyde Park for 16,000. At $5 per thousand points that's $60 and $80.
    The Choice points go on sale tomorrow, Tuesday, April 10, at Noon Central time. In past years these points were so popular that they were sold out within a few seconds of being offered, although you could repeatedly try to buy them and get lucky when someone else’s sale fell through, either because their credit card didn’t process or because they didn’t have a valid membership number. I would open three different browsers in order to get as many points as possible. With this year’s 20 percent increase in price comes a 10-fold increase in the number of point packages offered, so odds are that lightning fingers won’t be needed, and the points might be available for several hours if not days days. But if you want these points it’s still a good idea to be sitting at your computer at the crack of noon!
    Also being offered are IHG points (formerly Priority Club) for $5.80 per thousand on April 11 and Hilton points at $5 per thousand on April 12. I have purchased a small number of IHG points every year and manage to put them to good use, although the savings aren’t nearly as extreme as those from the Choice points. Hilton points at a half-cent each are a pretty good buy, but I wouldn’t stock up on them unless I had already priced out a trip and could see the savings up front.
    There are a lot of good deals being offered during the Daily Getaways promotion, but I’m going for the Choice Hotel points; that’s where the savings are.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Gun control proponents keep denouncing semi-automatics; do they know what they are?

    In all of the grab-the-guns hysteria going on right now it’s clear that a lot of gun critics don’t know what they are talking about. Again and again I read or hear people say that semi-automatic weapons should only be used by the military, that there is no need for any private citizen to own a semi-automatic weapon, and that they need to be confiscated.
    These people apparently aren’t aware that the majority of guns in this country are semi-automatic weapons. Most hunting weapons are semi-automatic. Most pistols are semi-automatic. Revolvers aren’t semi-automatic, but they might as well be. A semi-automatic weapon shoots one round with one press of the trigger, at which point the energy from the fired round automatically ejects the spent shell and loads another round; but the gun will not shoot again until the trigger is depressed for a second time. A non-automatic weapon requires the manual operation of a bolt or pump to eject the spent round and load a new one, or else the manual reloading of the gun.
    An automatic weapon is most commonly known as a machine gun. They have been essentially outlawed through taxation and regulation for the better part of a century. If you want to own a machine gun you will need around $40,000, a very clean record, and a lot of patience.
    What are popularly called "Assault rifles” are hunting weapons that have been gussied up to look like military weapons. But they still fire just like hunting rifles; if anything, they are less accurate. They are often fitting with extended magazines holding 10 to as many as 30 rounds of ammunition. At one time magazines holding more than 10 rounds were illegal under federal law, but this law expired. Many, but by no means all, hunting rifles can accept larger magazines.
    It’s possible to modify some semi-automatic rifles to act in a manner similar to an automatic. For example, the Obama administration issued a ruling that bump stocks were legal. These stocks cause a rifle to bounce against the finger and act as an automatic weapon, albeit with terrible aim. The NRA has urged the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to ban these. I believe the ATF also has the authority to ban any gun designed so that it can easily be modified to become a fully automatic weapon, and they should.
    I'll save my Second Amendment arguments for another day. But if the issue of gun control is to be debated I do think it is important for people to understand the difference between an automatic and semi-automatic weapon.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Holly Springs Methodists to celebrate reopening of sanctuary after wall collapse threatens church



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    The Holly Springs First United Methodist Church will return to its home this Sunday, Feb. 25, after six months of repairs due to the collapse of a wall. Congregants have been meeting at the Rust College chapel while the church has been under repair. The announcement was made on the church's Facebook page.
    Whether due to Divine Providence or luck, two priceless stained-glass windows were nearly lost in the wall collapse but sustained no damage. I don’t know the exact construction date of the church, but it was standing at the time of the War Between the States as Union soldiers used it as a stable for horses. I would assume the windows are as old as the church and always find them a sight to behold whenever I visit.
    You can see in the photos above just how serious this wall collapse was. The church wall collapsed on August 22 following heavy rains caused by Hurricane Harvey. Church members rushed to protect the church with tarps following the collapse, as rain from Hurricane Irma was on the way. Because of the age of the building there were fears that the entire wall might give way, destroying the church.
    The Holly Springs United Methodist Church is one of the few churches these days to have a traditional service. For those who prefer the “Old Time Religion,” this is the place. I hope to join them on Sunday and everyone is welcome. Sunday School is at 10 a.m. with Worship Service at 11 a.m.
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Photos taken from Facebook posts by Susan Kemp Jones and Lacy Horton Tollison.