See, society HAS made progress, lest you despair

My wife’s cousin posted this on Facebook moments ago, and it cracked me up.

Dig these hepcats delivering the message, “It’s not how long you make it, it’s how you make it long!” And no, I’m not trying to switch the subject back to pornography. They really said that. On TV. And yeah, in a way, it kind of was pornography.

Yes, boys and girls, before 1972, there were cigarette ads on TV. And while all TV advertising tended to be pretty insipid, almost nothing else exceeded cigarette ads on that score.

Can’t you just see Don Draper thinking this one up between naps on the couch in his office?

What’s a TV commercial, you ask? You know, those irritating things that come on when you watch a sporting event on TV. Otherwise, you’re unlikely to see them. At least, that’s the only time I see them, which means I don’t see them much. (I’ve watched a little of the Winter Olympics, but I can’t bring myself to stick with it past maybe one commercial break. Then it’s back to “Britannia” or “Detectorists” or old episodes of “The West Wing” on Netflix or Prime.)

Worse, back in the day they were often a whole minute long, even though this one is closer to the modern length. Thank merciful heaven.

I look back at this, and take heart: Yes, some things about our society and culture have gotten better in my lifetime…

winston

If I go back to school, I want Noble to fill out MY report card

nra

This is a followup on a topic from yesterday — the one about Phil Noble’s attempts to hang the NRA around James Smith’s neck in the wake of last week’s school shooting in Florida.

Have you seen the bogus “NRA Report Card” Noble’s campaign created for Smith? It’s above. Phil tweeted it out with a volley of the angry, chip-on-the-shoulder, self-righteous rhetoric that has become the calling card of South Carolina’s own Bernie Sanders: “I’m dismayed by hollow, hypocritical words of condolences by politicians like James Smith. Smith has voted over and over again with the NRA, getting A ratings and now tries to fool people that he is on the right side….” And so forth.

Yep, James Smith has gotten good ratings from the NRA a couple or three times, generally because of voting on a noncontroversial bill along with pretty much everyone else in the Legislature, including Democrats Noble has supported in the past. One such item he mentioned when I asked him about it yesterday was a bill (I think it was this one) that said it you build a house way out in the country next to an existing shooting range, you can’t bring a nuisance action for noise against the owners and operators. That sort of thing.

The thing is, James Smith isn’t someone who blanches at the site of a firearm. He knows exponentially more about assault rifles with large magazines than most of the people who own AR-15s because he’s used them himself — in combat (you know, for the purpose for which such weapons were intended). The Democratic Party used to be full of guys like him. Not so much anymore. And no, the GOP doesn’t have a lot of room to brag on that score, either.

But still, there was something fishy about that “report card.” Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell, a Smith ally (which is to say, a normal, mainstream Democrat) decided to dig into those “grades.”

The phony report card cited two sources. One was the NRA itself, and since you had to be a member to look up the scores, she turned to the other source, VoteSmart.org. There, on the James Smith ratings page under the “Guns” heading, you’ll find the apparent source material for Noble’s “report card.”

The site said that in 2012, the NRA gave Smith a rating of 79 percent — which Noble recorded as an “A-minus.” I know South Carolina recently watered down the values of letter grades, but I hadn’t seen anything this lenient.

But that was nothing compared to Noble’s generosity in 2016. That year, the NRA rated Smith at 43 percent. Noble called that a “C.”

Rep. Norrell tweeted, “My kids would love it if those were C’s and A-‘s, but I know of nowhere that that’s the case.”

Yeah… I don’t know of any place like that, either…

ratings

Pick out the Trump quote about Billy Graham

Trump twitter

Chris Cillizza posted this:

Here are five from well-known Republican politicians. See if you can pick out the one from President Donald Trump:

1. “Dr. Graham was a counselor to presidents, a pastor to the masses, and most of all — a loving, caring, husband, father, and grandfather. May he Rest In Peace.”

2. “We send our deepest condolences to the Graham family. Billy Graham’s ministry for the gospel of Jesus Christ and his matchless voice changed the lives of millions. We mourn his passing but I know with absolute certainty that today he heard those words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ Thank you Billy Graham. God bless you.”

3. “I think Billy touched the hearts of not only Christians, but people of all faiths, because he was such a good man. I was privileged to have him as a personal friend.”

4. “The GREAT Billy Graham is dead. There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man.”

5. “Billy Graham lifted eyes toward heaven and instilled heaven’s values in hearts. The world mourns this man of character, this man of God.”

Not much of a challenge, is it? You just pick the one that reads like it came from a child who’s trying to sound grownup but not succeeding. Or perhaps from someone whose first language is not English, and who knows next to nothing about religion or Western culture in general.

The others, the ones that sound like they came from articulate grownups, are from Lindsey Graham, Mike Pence, former George H.W. Bush and Mitt Romney.

About bars closing at 2 a.m. in Columbia

For my second post of the day based on Twitter, I’ll give you something I retweeted this morning:

Kevin Fisher

Kevin Fisher

First, let me tell you of a sorta kinda indirect conflict I have. Or at least, apparent conflict: Phill Blair, co-owner of The Whig, is one of my elder son’s oldest friends, and one of the leading opponents of an earlier closing time for bars in the city. (For that matter, Free Times has a much closer connection than that his partner Will Green, but no one makes a secret of that or anything.)

And their argument is this: Their bar, which benefits from staying open later, would be penalized when it isn’t one of the bars causing the problems the policy is designed to address — which is more of a Five Points thing. (Phill and Will, let me know if I didn’t state that clearly.)

Of course, that flies in the face of my Grownup Party instincts, which embraces such concepts as “Nothing good happens after 2 a.m.” So I tend to lean toward what Kevin is saying:

In case you didn’t know it, we are very much the outlier on this issue, with Charleston and Greenville both requiring bars to close at 2 a.m.

Yet somehow the hospitality industry in those cities has survived and thrived without serving alcohol past 2 a.m. That’s right, all the bar activity on the peninsula in Charleston and all the bar activity on Main Street in Greenville comes to an end at 2 a.m.

What do their City Councils know that ours doesn’t? Maybe how to run a city, for starters.

Kevin was as wrong as wrong can be in the column before this one. If there was a perfect example of an issue that should NOT be decided by referendum, it’s the Dominion-SCANA deal. But he’s on more solid ground this week.

THIS is what political exploitation of gun tragedies looks like

Twitter home

I get up in the morning, I work out, I skim Twitter, I peruse several newspapers, and I get ideas that could be blog posts, but I fritter them away in Tweets before breakfast is over, and the blog lies fallow for much of the day.

So I’m going to start turning more Tweets into posts, so the conversation can occur here as well as there.

Let’s start with this one:

In case the Tweet I was retweeting doesn’t show up, here’s what I was talking about:

Of course, I was far from the only one to react this way. A couple of other Tweets on the subject:

To which Tyler Jones responded, “Egg, meet Phil Noble’s face.”

And an American Party candidate for the House had this to say:

OK, that should be enough to get y’all started…

Who are your All-Time, Top Five Presidents?

Rushmore

I started to do this yesterday and then forgot. The piece in The New York Times in which political scholars rank all the presidents — brought to my attention by both Bud and Norm — has reminded me.

In that survey, of course, Donald Trump comes in dead last. There’s no other place to put him. He has rescued Buchanan from holding that spot permanently. Even among Republicans, he’s in the bottom five. That’s the thing about being a scholar — whatever your inclinations, you know certain things.

But other than that, there’s plenty of room for debate — although everybody has the same top three that I have.

Here’s my list:

  1. Lincoln — There’s just no contest. We wouldn’t have or country today if not for Abe. He was such a perfect match for what the nation had to have at that moment that it’s the strongest suggestion in our history that God has a special place in His heart for America. Whether from divine cause or not, his appearance at that time was miraculous. His unmatched wisdom, his stunning eloquence, his almost superhuman political skills — even his sense of humor — all combined not only to keep the country together, but to address head-on the central political problem of our history. For four score and nine years (I’m counting to the 13th Amendment), the best minds in the country had been unable to deal with slavery. Lincoln got it done, decisively.
  2. Roosevelt — For some of the same reasons Lincoln is No. 1 — he came along at just the right time, with just the right skills. His brilliance, his courage, his confidence, his ebullience, his ability as a patrician to connect with and inspire the poor and downcast, got us through not only the Depression but the worst, most destructive war in human history. A few months ago, I visited Warm Springs, and to think the way the man kept the nation’s spirits up while every day was such a physical struggle for him fills me with awe.
  3. Washington — His time as president isn’t necessarily what impresses us most — his own particular talents may have been more clearly on display as a general. In the political sphere, Madison and Hamilton were proving moving and shaking things more. But given what we have today, the dignity he brought to the office, the bearing, is truly something to be appreciated. And he quit rather than run again after his second term, he relinquished power rather than become the monarch he might have been. We owe a lot to the American Cincinnatus.
  4. Johnson — Here’s where I break with the experts. Even the Democrats among the scholars place him no higher than 8th. But considering how little the federal government has done since then, I remain amazed at the things he pushed through in 1964-65, the sweeping civil rights legislation, the significant steps in the direction of single-payer health care (alas, the last big steps we took.) Yep, everybody blames him for how he handled Vietnam — but he didn’t set out to do that; he just badly mishandled what he had inherited. He wanted to concentrate on his domestic programs. And we’d probably all be better off today if he had manage to do that.
  5. Truman — OK, this was kind of a tossup among several people. I wanted to name my favorite Founder, John Adams — but he wasn’t all that distinguished as president, and there was the matter of the Alien and Sedition Acts. Teddy Roosevelt looms large, and he did a lot — in his own ways, he was as energetic a leader as his kinsman Franklin and LBJ. But I don’t want to get into a big argument defending the imperialism (and here we’re talking real imperialism, instead of the imaginary kind people have fantasized about in modern times). So let’s go with the unassuming guy whom everyone underestimated, but who got us through the end of the war that FDR had almost won, then won the peace, shaping America’s leadership role in building the postwar world order. And don’t forget the way he integrated the military, one of the first big steps toward desegregation. We could really use a man like him again.

So… whom would y’all pick?

A guy who knew where the buck stopped.

A guy who knew where the buck stopped.

Is the U.S. a failed state? In a number of ways, it seems so

E.J. Dionne says we are, at least with regard to one issue: “On gun violence, the United States has become a corrupt failed state.”Dionne

But the problem is broader than that.

Sure, we have demonstrated that we are completely incompetent to keep children from being murdered en masse in our schools, which is about as basic a failure as you can find. If our political structures are completely incapable of accomplishing that job, what good are they? The New Yorker was right to proclaim last week that “America’s Failure to Protect Its Children from School Shootings Is a National Disgrace.”

But our failures to protect the things that must be protected in order to have a civilization go beyond that. Look at a few other examples of where we’re failing at the basics:

  • Despite Alexander Hamilton’s promises, the Constitution utterly failed to prevent a malevolent, staggeringly unqualified, amazingly self-involved, unbalanced ignoramus from becoming president. We’ve never had such a political failure before in our entire history. We’ve never even come close. And before Nov. 8, 2016, most of us couldn’t imagine it.
  • Thanks to the election of said ignoramus, our security apparatus is crippled in its ability to stop the Russians from continuing to undermine our democracy with tactics that, in the pre-internet, Nixonian era, was called “ratf___ing.” That’s because acknowledging the problem would hurt the tender feelings of the ignoramus.
  • Oh, I’m not blaming Trump. I’m blaming the people who voted for him, and the extreme polarization that led them to do such an immensely destructive thing. Last year, one idea was uppermost in the minds of those who voted for Trump, Bernie Sanders and Green Party nominee Jill Stein, all three of whom were pushing the idea that our national institutions could not be trusted (which is why the Russian trolls tried to help all three, not just Trump).
  • Which brings us to the one thing most responsible for that polarization (or at least, it’s tied with the fact that in the internet era everybody seems to believe they’re entitled to their own facts, Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s dictum notwithstanding): Partisan gerrymandering. Decades too late, our courts are starting to look at this problem, but how many of us believe that our incumbent representatives won’t find ways around whatever the courts may do?
  • Talk about failing at the basics: How many years did we go without Congress passing a normal annual budget? Oh, but wait! What about the historic recent bipartisan spending agreement? Well, it was accomplished by all involved getting what they wanted, as though unprecedented deficits didn’t matter. No hard decisions were made, because our system no longer supports doing that.
  • I won’t even get into the way his country is shrinking in the estimation of both friends and foes abroad. I could blame Trump and/or Sanders for that, but remember: Even Hillary Clinton, who knew better, was trashing TPP by the end. Why? Because our politics had become that dysfunctional.

A few days before the school shooting, to Doug’s annoyance, I applauded when Ross Douthat wrote a column essentially saying that the inundation of our youth in pornography is not an unavoidable physical law of nature, but a man-made problem that we could address if we simply had the resolve.Douthat

My point wasn’t to call for a war on porn. I think we have bigger problems. My point was that he was standing up to one of those things that cause us to shrug and say, There’s nothing we can do! Like school shootings, or hyperpartisanship, or the politics of hopelessness.

And he was saying, if we really make up our minds to do something, we can.

I liked that idea, or the attitude behind the idea. The attitude that we don’t have to accept being a failed state. But unfortunately, at the moment, in some important ways, that’s what we are.

What’s with the camel at the State House?

Camel

As long as I’m posting questions based on photos taken downtown this morning

Does anybody know why there was a camel — a real, live camel standing there chewing his cud — on the grounds of the State House this morning, just a few yards from the Confederate Soldier Monument?

Was it a statement? Was someone saying the State House is a Idea Desert or something? I mean, it wasn’t Hump Day or anything.

I suppose I could have parked and walked back and asked, but it’s more fun to pose it as a mystery…

Who are all these people who are off on Presidents’ Day?

My lonely Volvo on Assembly Street at mid-morning.

My lonely Volvo on Assembly Street at mid-morning.

When I parked on Assembly Street this morning, I had an entire block of spaces to choose from. When I came back an hour later, my old Volvo was still alone, except for one car at the very end of the block that you can’t see in the picture above.

Were you off today? If so, fie on you.

Personally, I have never had a job in which this was a holiday.

And further, what does this “holiday” mean to you? It’s not Washington’s Birthday, although — I was surprised to learn — that is the official name of the day (Wikipedia says it’s only called “Presidents’ Day” colloquially). It’s not Lincoln’s birthday.

It’s sort of like… not anything really. At least on Columbus Day — another holiday I’ve never had off from work for — we can have big Culture War over the meaning. But what does this one mean?

It’s about as vague as you can get….

 

(Late) Open Thread for Thursday, February 15, 2018

I don't know what kind of tree this is, but it was nothing but blooms when I walked past it on the State House grounds today.

Don’t know what kind of tree this is, but it was nothing but blooms when I passed it on the State House grounds today.

Been busy today, but here are a few things to chew on:

  1. America’s Failure to Protect Its Children from School Shootings Is a National Disgrace — A second-day angle, from The New Yorker. I spent some time today writing a post on this subject, but it’s not quite ready. I’ll try to finish it tomorrow.
  2. The AR-15: ‘America’s rifle’ or illegitimate killing machine? — Why can’t it be both? With 8 million of these weapons designed for war are out there, I sort of think it is…
  3. White House, Lindsey Graham go to war over immigration — Not literally war, of course, but they’re definitely not BFFs any more. Lindsey blew his stack over a truly puerile memo from Trump’s Department of Homeland Security. It said his bill “would effectively make the United States a Sanctuary Nation where ignoring the rule of law is encouraged.”
  4. Relic Room offers plan to display State House Confederate flag — At a tenth of a cost of its earlier plan, the museum hopes this will fly at the Legislature and it can get back to concentrating on actual military history.
  5. Steve Bannon questioned in Mueller inquiry — He reportedly spent 20 hours with investigators this week.

 

Did you know SC had an Official Snack? I did not…

Krista via Flickr

Krista via Flickr

I learned about it from this release today from Lindsey Graham:

Graham, Scott Introduce Bill to Better Represent S.C. Peanut Farmers

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) introduced the South Carolina Peanut Parity Act, which would put an individual from South Carolina on the Peanut Standards Board at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Companion legislation was introduced by U.S. Representative Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina) and passed the House of Representatives in October 2017.

Graham and Scott noted that even though South Carolina has the fourth largest peanut industry in the country, the state is not represented the Peanut Standards Board. The board, created by the 2002 farm bill, advises USDA on proper standards for peanut quality and handling.

“As growers of our state’s official snack, South Carolina peanut farmers deserve a say in matters that affect their livelihood. I’m proud to work with my colleague, Senator Scott, on this important bill to ensure South Carolina’s peanut farmers get adequate representation at USDA,” said Graham. 

“Ensuring South Carolina peanut farmers have a seat at the table is incredibly important,” Scott said. “I want to thank Senator Graham for working together on this important bill, and I look forward to sharing some South Carolina boiled peanuts with our colleagues when it passes.”

#####

I didn’t know we had an official snack. I didn’t know anyone had an official snack. And I quite naturally wonder whether we need an official snack.

But as long as we’re going to have one, I can’t think of a better one than boiled peanuts. Can you?

And in fact, now that I know it, I find myself growing quite indignant at the knowledge that heretofore, we were unrepresented on the Peanut Standards Board!

In light of that, I’d like to propose a new Official Battle Cry for the state of South Carolina:

No Goobers Without Representation!

Obama portrait: Is this modern? Do you LIKE this?

Obama portrait

I’m still kinda buggin’ in reaction to the Obama portrait unveiled yesterday.

As I said on Twitter last night:

Yeah, it looks like him. But what is this, a Grateful Dead album cover? Why does he seem to be floating in the middle of a hedge or something (specifically, the 12-foot-high hedge of hibiscus that ran the length of our backyard in Hawaii in 1971… except… the flowers are different), with leaves and flowers threatening to envelop him?

Barry in the Sky with Blossoms?

I guess you’re either on the bus or you’re off the bus.

As I told Bryan in a subsequent Twitter discussion, this really brings out my Tory sensibilities. Jack Donaghy on “30 Rock” once said:

A horse is one of only three appropriate subjects for a painting, along with ships with sails, and men holding up swords while staring off into the distance.

Hear, hear. And certainly not something from the fevered imaginings of Timothy Leary. Harrumph!…

"LOOK at them!" cried the emperor. This is nonsense!"

“LOOK at them!” cried the emperor. This is nonsense!”

Hey, y’all — what’s with the blue bar on File Explorer window?

file explorer

See the window from File Explorer above. Then see the one below.

Why does the one below have a blue bar across the top? This seems to happen at random. Ever since about the time I started using Windows 10, I’ll randomly get windows like this when I’m hunting for something in the file structure. Sometimes a blue bar; sometimes not.

Not that I care about the aesthetics or anything, but when I get a window with a blue bar, I lose some functionality. For instance, if I want to highlight some files in order to copy or delete or move them, the highlighting doesn’t show — so I lose track of what I’ve selected and what I haven’t.

When you move around files as much as I do, this gets to be a pain.

What I’d like is for Explorer just to show up the normal way, without the blue bar.

Any idea how I can make that happen? I’ve tried searching for an answer from Microsoft, to no avail…

blue line

 

Rick Quinn won’t go to prison as Pascoe wished

State House

David Pascoe didn’t get his way on Rick Quinn, as the former lawmaker was sentenced to community service and probation Monday.

A judge Monday sentenced former state Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, to one year in prison and then suspended that sentence.

Instead, Quinn will have to do 500 hours of community service and serve two years of probation.

Quinn, 52, a 20-year House veteran known for his political influence, entered a guilty plea to misconduct in office in December. The offense carries a maximum prison sentence of one year.

Quinn’s sentence had been the subject of speculation and a fierce behind-the-scenes legal battle between prosecutors and defense attorneys since his unexpected guilt plea in December….

This is not terribly surprising. Although Pascoe at a recent hearing presented a 30-minute Power Point detailing crimes allegedly committed by Quinn, the Republican’s guilty plea only covered “one, basically, technical violation — failing to report a one-time payment of roughly $28,000 by the University of South Carolina, an institution that lobbies the Legislature, to a company that Quinn had a link to….”

Pascoe had portrayed the younger Quinn as the worst of the worse, saying “There has been no one more corrupt than Rick Quinn.”

And this is all he can successfully pin on him? The prosecutor wanted Quinn to spend a year in prison. But the judge suspended the sentence.

Not that this corruption investigation is over. Sen. John Courson’s trial is coming up.

And we have yet to see whether Pascoe’s allegations about AG Alan Wilson will lead to anything…

I miss our two former party chairmen, Matt & Jaime

In reaction to disclosures regarding Rick Quinn’s case, former state GOP Chairman Matt Moore Tweeted this:

I retweeted it, and former state Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison responded:

Always a class act!

Yes, Jaime, and so are you.

I normally don’t care much for parties, as y’all know, but I often approve of some of their members. And Matt and Jaime were unusual party chairs. They were friends rather than enemies, and worked together when they could for the betterment of South Carolina. For instance, they stood shoulder-to-shoulder for removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds.

Later, they both came out for reforming two of the greatest scourges of partisanship: gerrymandering and straight-ticket voting.

Our politics needs more guys like these two…

Matt, Yours Truly and Jaime celebrating the removal of the flag.

Matt, Yours Truly and Jaime celebrating the removal of the flag.

The ‘Jihadist Beatles?’

jihadi beatles

 

Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC
Didn’t get to bed last night
Stayed up putting Semtex in my BVDs
Man I had a dreadful flight!

I’m back in the I.S.I.L.
You prob’ly won’t live to tell, boy
Back in the I.S.I.L.!

Sorry. I suppose that’s in poor taste. But I didn’t start it. It’s the British press that’s calling these four terrorists “the Beatles:”

Exhausted and strikingly different in appearance from the other captives, the two new prisoners were believed by Kurdish militia leaders to be among Islamic State’s cadre of foreign fighters.

But it was not until mid-January, around one week after their capture in eastern Syria, that the Kurds – and their CIA colleagues at the interrogation centre where they were holding the prisoners – knew exactly who they had: Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, Britain’s two most wanted terror suspects. They had finally been caught – and they were ready to talk.

Kotey and Elsheikh are the final two of an infamous quartet of Britons who acted as jailers, torturers and executioners of foreign aid workers and journalists for more than two years from mid-2013. They were dubbed “the Beatles” by their victims, in reference to their British accents – though they were from London, rather than Merseyside…

I used to have pleasant, light-hearted associations with the Fab Four. Now this…

My connection to the guy Catherine Templeton mentioned

Following up on my post about our ancestors owning slaves… I ran across something else interesting. To me, anyway. You know what a geek I am about this stuff.

As native South Carolinians know in their bones, and as interlopers from elsewhere (just kidding! y’all are welcome!) soon find out, we’re all related one way or another.

Here’s an illustration of that…

In the story cited previously, Catherine Templeton mentioned someone who I suppose is one of her forebears, since he had the same surname and her father is named for him. The story wasn’t specific, though:

Templeton said her family arrived in South Carolina in the late 1700s, adding her father was named after Judge William Brawley, “who fought for this state, fought in the Battle of Seven Pines, even lost an arm for this state.”..

Anyway, whatever her connection is to Judge Brawley, it’s apparently one of the things that makes her proud of the Confederacy.

So I looked up Judge Brawley, and found this:

William Hiram Brawley (incorrectly reported in some works as William Huggins Brawley; May 13, 1841 – November 15, 1916) was a U.S. Representative from South Carolina and later a United States federal judge. He was the cousin of John James Hemphill and great-uncle of Robert Witherspoon Hemphill….

And the light flashed in my head: Hemphill! So I clicked on John James Hemphill and found this:

John James Hemphill (August 25, 1849 – May 11, 1912) was a U.S. Representative from South Carolina, cousin of William Huggins Brawley, nephew of John Hemphill and great-uncle of Robert Witherspoon Hemphill.

OK, now we’re getting somewhere. I then clicked on this guy’s uncle John Hemphill and found what I suspected:

John Hemphill (December 18, 1803 – January 4, 1862) was Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, and a United States Senator.

Sen. John Hemphill

Sen. John Hemphill

The picture was familiar, because it appears on my family tree. That John Hemphill is my fourth-great uncle. He was the brother of my great-great-great grandmother Margaret Hemphill — my Dad’s mother’s mother’s father’s mother.

He was an interesting guy, playing a prominent role in the early history of the state of Texas. A while back, someone told me that he was interesting in another way.

I don’t know whether the story is true or not, but it made an impression at the time, and it’s why his name rang a bell.

A couple of years ago, having run across my tree, a woman wrote to me to ask me what I knew about Sen. Hemphill. I didn’t know much — for instance, I’d never found the name of his wife if he had one — but she said she knew why I hadn’t found a wife:

John Harrison Hemphill is my maternal 2nd-great grandfather. The Senator never married, although he had 2 daughters by his female slave, Sabina. Their names were Theodora and Henrietta. I know Theodora was born in Austin, but I’m not sure if Henrietta was. Hope that helps….

I wrote back and forth with this lady, and she shared what she had, but she wasn’t sure of all the precise connections. And I’ve looked at her tree since then, and I don’t find Theodora or Henrietta or Sabina. So maybe she’s decided she isn’t as sure about being descended from Hemphill that way.

And she might even be wrong about being related to Hemphill at all — which wouldn’t be a shock, given the circumstances and the lack of the normal confirming sources, forcing her I suppose to rely on family anecdote. I’ve come to doubt it because she mentioned doing the Ancestry DNA test, but she doesn’t show up in my DNA results as related.

But it was a fascinating story, and the main reason why his name rang a bell.

Anyway, maybe I’m related, distantly, to Catherine Templeton. Which would make another fairly common Southern story…

One place I did not expect to find cheesy artificial diversity

secessionist

Original photography is expensive. So website designers on a budget often opt for stock photography.

If you choose well, you find some that goes well with your site, enhancing your message or the image of your organization without distracting.

But if you choose poorly, you can come across as cheesy and artificial.

One thing stock photo providers offer businesses and organizations is the chance to project “diversity,” which may be desirable to the client. This can work, but like anything it can look out of place or contrived, and not only because the viewer is likely to ask, “How does a photographer find a group of people who not only represent every race under the sun, but are all wholesomely good-looking?”

stockAnyway, I ran across that kind of photo today in the unlikeliest of places: the website of the Secessionist Party of South Carolina.

Yeah, yeah, I know: Party chair James Bessenger has been trying hard to demonstrate that his organization is not racist, most laughably notably by pushing for recognition of basically nonexistent black Confederate soldiers.

But, come on. Surely we’re not to think that this is the aftermath of a Secessionist Party board meeting. These kids look like they just collapsed in exhaustion on that hilltop after too many takes of singing “I’d like to teach the world to sing…

Anyway, it was a bit… incongruous….

It seems the chief wasn’t talking about Meg at all…

OK, here’s a surprise twist:

Whoa. So… the chief wasn’t talking about her at all?

I reached out to the mayor, and she said she was just about to call me, because she had just found out that the chief wasn’t talking about Meg, and that she — the mayor — had jumped to the wrong conclusion when she reached out to me before.

“I looked at it too quickly,” she admits. Having learned that, she wanted to let me know.

So, I guess, never mind. And I hereby apologize to readers for having posted something that wasn’t true.

And to Meg, too. Fortunately, she’s in a (mostly) forgiving mood:

Meg Kinnard

Meg Kinnard

If you’re a white Southerner and you think your ancestors owned no slaves, you should probably dig a little deeper

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s a correction that proves the point of this post. While I knew I had quite a few ancestors who owned slaves, just for contrast I mentioned one great-great grandfather (Henry Waller) who did NOT. I was wrong. A first cousin has written to let me know Henry owned at least one slave, whom he mentioned in letters home. I hope to get copies of those letters soon. So even I am guilty of falsely believing that one ancestor owned no slaves…

Last week, Catherine Templeton used the standard cliche rationalization for why she’s proud of her Confederate heritage:

“It’s important to note that my family didn’t fight because we had slaves,” Templeton said to a room mostly filled with university students. “My family fought because the federal government was trying to tell us how to live.”

We won’t get into the fact that the one thing white Southerners — the ones in charge — were afraid the federal government would make them do was stop owning slaves. And I’ll point out only in passing that if your ancestors owned no slaves and took up arms for the Confederacy, then they were victims of a major con job. Some of my own ancestors were duped in the same manner.

But not all of them. I’ve long known that some of my ancestors were slaveowners. But it wasn’t until I started seriously building out my family tree that I realized how many of them fit that description.

As much as I love talking genealogy — as y’all know, to your sorrow — I hesitated to post this. But my tree is the only one I know this well, and I think what I have found argues against the claims that all too many white Southerners make. And I think people should know that. So here goes…

Patrick Henry Bradley

Patrick Henry Bradley

At first, I had thought that slaveholding was limited to my paternal grandmother’s people, the Bradleys (for whom I’m named). Patrick Henry Bradley, her grandfather, was one of the leading citizens in his part of Abbeville County. When the War came, he raised his own company and led it in the field, but soon returned home to serve out the rest of the war in the Legislature. His eldest son stayed at the front, and was killed at Trevillian Station in 1864.

I would have assumed that the Bradleys were slaveholders just because of Patrick Henry’s service in the Legislature, which was largely made up of the slaveholding class. But I don’t have to assume; I have documentary and anecdotal evidence to that effect. I don’t know whether he had a lot of slaves, but he had some.

James Chesnut Jr.

James Chesnut Jr.

I had accepted this as fact long ago, but I had assumed that my ancestors in other branches of the family were generally innocent of having owned other humans. Not based on anything, really, beyond the fact that none of them were quite as upscale as the Bradleys. Of course, when I say “Bradleys,” I’m lumping in a lot of folks who bore different surnames — pretty much that whole quarter of my tree. For instance, James Chesnut — husband of famous diarist Mary Boykin and one of the leading men in Confederate South Carolina — is a 3rd cousin four times removed. (That means my 6th-great grandfather, Alexander Samuel Chesnut, was his great-great grandfather.) He was in that Bradley fourth.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following paragraph is dead wrong. Henry Waller DID own at least one slave, I am reliably informed. I hope to have evidence of that soon…)

But I had liked to think that another great-great grandfather, William Henry Waller, was more typical of the rest of my tree — just an ordinary soldier who got caught up in forces bigger than he was. I’ve never seen or heard anything to indicate Henry owned slaves, or money or much else. But admittedly, I don’t know a lot about him. He went AWOL to visit the family farm in Marion County when his unit was marching north toward Virginia. My great-grandmother — who died when I was 4 years old (yep, that’s how recent that war was: someone who lived then overlapped with my life) — was born nine months later. She, my mother’s father’s mother, never knew her father, because Henry died of disease at the siege of Petersburg. Consequently, I know practically nothing about him. I don’t even know who his parents were, or whether he had siblings. That line is the shortest on my tree, because of that break.

The old lady is the daughter of Henry Waller. The big-headed kid on her lap is me.

The old lady is my great-grandmother, the daughter of Henry Waller, who died at Petersburg. The big-headed kid on her lap, grooving on the apples, is me. This was 1957.

I picture Henry as being one of those guys like Virgil Caine in “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” A sympathetic character caught up in events and trying to get by the best he could. And I tended to lump others from the non-Bradley portions of the family into that category.

But I was wrong, as I learned from early census records after I finally paid to join Ancestry and gained access to that site’s documentary “hints” about my forebears. Later census records name everyone in a household (although their names are often spelled wrong). But in the early decades of the 19th century, the records would just name the “head of household,” and then give a demographic breakdown of the rest of the household — X number of “Free White Persons – Males – 16 thru 25,” and Y number of “Free White Persons – Under 16.”

But the really revelatory data comes under such headings as “Slaves – Males – 26 thru 44.” I assume the records were kept that way so each slave could be counted as three-fifths of a person for the sake of electoral apportionment.

Perusing these records can be a real eye-opener. While Henry Waller may not have owned slaves, others on my mother’s side did. Take, for instance, my 4th-great grandfather Henry C. Foxworth, also of Marion County: There were six slaves in his household in 1820. This sort of thing will pop up again and again in a white Southern family. However humble and righteous you may think your ancestors were, a family tree is likely far more diverse — here I mean economically diverse in particular — than you give it credit for being. And the people who bore your surname are only a tiny fraction of the people from whom you are descended who lived during the centuries of slavery. Until I really got into building my tree, I had no idea I was descended from anyone named “Foxworth.”

Wesley Samuel Foxworth marker(By the way, like Patrick Henry Bradley, Henry Foxworth also lost a son in the war. My great-great-great grandfather Wesley Samuel Foxworth was also killed during that Petersburg campaign. Fortunately for me, his daughter from whom I am descended had been born 12 years earlier.)

I am three-fourths South Carolinian, but hey, at least I won’t find any of that slavery stuff among the Warthens up in Maryland, right? So I thought — somewhat irrationally, since Maryland (although it stayed in the Union) was a slave state.

My great-grandmother Rebecca Jane Rabbitt — who married my great-grandfather Warthen — died in 1898, two days after the birth of her sixth child. She was 35. But I’ve been a lot luckier tracing her tree than poor Henry Waller’s, taking it back to the Middle Ages. (Through her, I’m a Tudor, making Henry VIII a cousin.)

But one of the more interesting things I’ve found on that line is much more recent — it involves her grandfather, John Thomas Rabbitt Jr., 1779-1863. It’s an indenture contract. One William Frumfree, described as “a colored man,” owed $40 to the state of Maryland, and was in jail in 1829 because he couldn’t pay it. My ancestor paid it for him, in exchange for which… well, here’s a quote from the document Mr. Frumfree signed:

… I do hereby bind myself to the service of said Rabbitt in any manner in which he may chose to use me for and during the term of one year from the date hereof to be considered and treated as the slave of said Rabbitt during my term of service as contracted by this paper…

Oh, and just in case you thought that would be lighter service than being a permanent slave, there’s this language:

… the said Rabbitt is to be subject to no liability for his treatment or chastisement of me which he would not own in the case of one of his own slaves for life…

But hey, don’t think the only thing Mr. Frumfree got was out of the jail. He was also paid “the sum of one cent.” No, really. It’s all in the document signed on May 13, 1829.

About all I can say for John Thomas is that as of the 1820 and the 1840 censuses, he didn’t own any slaves. So, there’s that.

Why do I tell you all of this? To shame myself, or to perversely brag about what wheeler-dealers my ancestors were? No. Of course I’m uncomfortable with this topic and these details, but my point is that I highly doubt that my tree is unusual. Note that these slaveowners I’ve mentioned had nothing to do with each other. They never met. They were from very different families living in different places under different circumstances. In other words, these incidences of slaveholding were independent of each other.

And it crops up often enough that I can’t believe I’m anywhere near alone in this. Almost half of white South Carolina families (46 percent) owned slaves. What do you think the chances are that none of the many families that led do you owned human property?

If other white Southerners really knew who their ancestors were, you’d seldom hear a proud neoConfederate say, ever-so-self-righteously, that his (or her) ancestors didn’t own slaves. The odds are against it being a fact.

It is a wise child that knows his own father, and a wiser one who knows even more of his forebears, and faces up to reality.