Category Archives: Travel

Looking ahead: Have a nice St. Pat’s. I’ll be in Ireland

My brother-in-law, Patrick Cooper Phelan, in 2007.

My brother-in-law, Patrick Cooper Phelan, in 2007.

As long as I’m wishing you appropriate holiday sentiments, I hope y’all all have a great St. Patrick’s Day. I see tickets are available for the Five Points bash, and you get a discount if you buy them in advance.

I urge you to go to Yesterday’s and buy one, have a pint and remember me to Duncan and my other friends there.

However, I won’t be joining you on the day of. I’ll be in Ireland.

See how I just reeled that off so casually, as though going to Ireland is a small thing that I do all the time? Well, it isn’t. I’ve never been before. But my colleen and I will be boarding a plane for Dublin a week from today, and we’re kind of excited about it. We’ll spend a couple of days there, and on St. Paddy’s Day we’ll be in Waterford, which is my wife’s ancestral home. She’s a Phelan, which is to say she’s an Ó Faoláin.

We have tacitly agreed that while in Waterford, I won’t mention my descent from the guy the hard cider is named after. Although while in Dublin I plan to quietly go to the National Gallery and see his wedding picture, which depicts his taking Irish Princess Aoife Ní Diarmait as his bride. (And if anyone asks me, I’ll stress that I’m just as much descended from her as I am from the Norman. Ahem. So don’t blame me.)

And it promises to be a great St. Patrick’s Day, because my wife’s brother and his wife will be with us. And the most fun I ever had at the Five Points celebration was in 2007, with that same brother-in-law.

Having the two Phelans with me should give me all the cred I need among the Irish. Or so I hope.

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to it. So much so that I started reading Ulysses a few weeks back, to get into the mood. But a couple of “chapters” in, I decided that was unnecessary, and that having read Dubliners is more than enough preparation….

 

‘Dooanld the Ready’

Vm3rI_8P

I’ve called your attention before to the hilarious Twitter feed Donaeld The Unready, the chronicles of a king from the era of “The Last Kingdom” and “Vikings” who goes about blustering and promising to “Make Mercia Great Again!”

Sample recent Tweet:

As you probably know, my first name is Donald. My first name comes in handy because I can always tell when I’m being addressed by people who don’t know me or anything about me — they call me “Donald.”

But I was really confused this morning. My wife and I are planning a trip to Ireland in a few months. We signed up for a package deal that my brother-in-law and his wife are also planning to go on, out of Memphis.

Today, I got an email from one of the organizers telling us that… well, I’m still trying to sort out what it’s telling us. Something about our flight to Heathrow and from there to Dublin, I think.

Anyway, it addressed me as “Dooanld.”

Is that an ancient Irish version of “Donald?” No, that would be “Domhnall.” (The name is of Gaelic origin, by the way.  It means “world ruler,” which tells you I have yet to come into my birthright, and I’m kind of getting impatient about that. I mean, don’t names mean anything anymore?)

Also, how is one to pronounce “Dooanld?”

Whatever. I’m looking forward to the trip. Call me Dooanld the Ready…

Actual photograph of Dooanld the Ready. OK, so technically it's an actor portraying my ancestor Ragnar Lothbrok. Best I could do...

Actual photograph of Dooanld the Ready. OK, so technically it’s an actor portraying my ancestor Ragnar Lothbrok. Best I could do…

The life of a gentleman is (or was) the life for me…

0ff7fd27d27343059e080fb5aa92836b--mr-darcy-colin-firth

To live any other way would be… insupportable…

Kay Packett, who has been known to comment here in the past, confessed on Facebook that “I want to live in an English novel, where, when anything goes wrong, someone immediately makes tea. I don’t even like tea.”

I responded immediately:

I’ll drink anything you like, as long as I’m a country gentleman with a competent man of business to deal with the running of the estate. I’ll be happy to serve as an MP as long I don’t have to think too hard, just vote the High Tory line. Will I have a membership at White’s, for when I’m in Town? If so, I’m in… Yeah, I’ve thought this out…

And I have thought it out; that’s the pathetic part. All that stuff was right there at my fingertips when the question arose.

And just so you don’t think I want to be a leech on society, I would also be happy to serve as a post captain in the Royal Navy during the same period (Regency era), commanding a frigate, with plenty of independent cruises and therefore opportunities for prize money…

1480530742_658279_1480530991_noticia_normal

Columbia named a ‘City on the Rise’

Soda City market, just one of many signs of a more attractive city./file photo

Soda City market, just one of many signs of a more attractive city./file photo

This came in last night from Mayor Steve Benjamin:

Dear friends,

We’re thrilled to share that Columbia has been named one of the 29 “Cities on the Rise” for 2018 by National Geographic Travel! As the world’s most widely-read travel magazine, National Geographic Travel chose Columbia based on both a unique set of metrics and expert picks from its editors.

The Nat Geo team worked with global destination branding advisors Resonance Consultancy in developing a Small Cities Index, a survey that drew from statistics and social media mentions to determine which cities rank highest in a variety of distinctive, fun categories. Columbia’s inclusion stems from being one of the “Best Groomed” and “Meatiest” destinations.

“At Traveler we’re passionate about tales of urban renewal, about communities that have collaborated to improve their main streets, about smart cities that have pursued development policies that produce happiness. In this article, we report on authentic small cities that each embody a surprising superlative,” says George Stone, National Geographic Traveler editor in chief. “Happy places for locals are also rewarding places for travelers. Our index of small cities on the rise is based on unconventional metrics that we think produce happiness: green spaces, coffee shops, breweries, music venues, Instagrammable moments and puppies!”

Columbia joins fellow South Carolina cities Charleston and Greenville in this list as well as destinations like Honolulu and New Orleans.

You can get a copy of the February/March 2018 issue, available now on newsstands and online at www.natgeo.com/bestsmallcities.

Meatiest? As in “Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy?”

Meaty

Can’t any English-speaking country have a normal election?

I watched this man-on-the-street video, which offered no rational explanation...

I watched this man-on-the-street video, which offered no rational explanation…

You know, it would have been nice to have been reassured that things were stable and sane over in the world’s second-greatest liberal democracy, since they’re so messed up here. It would have given me a little hope for the West.

But no-o-o-o, the Brits had to go all wobbly on us. They like to do absurd things, from dumping Winston Churchill at the very end of the war to Brexit.

I hope Theresa May learned a lesson, one akin to “Never get off the boat!” in “Apocalypse Now:” Never call a snap election, thinking it will make you stronger.

Now, basically, nobody’s in charge over there. And astoundingly, that total flake Jeremy Corbyn is stronger than ever. He’s strutting around the ring like a professional wrestler who has just clocked his adversary with a metal folding chair — which isn’t a becoming spectacle in the best of circumstances.

I remember when Labour was reasonably respectable, under my main man Tony Blair. Now, it’s not quite the thing. You can’t take it anywhere without being embarrassed.

Yeah, I know the PM was no great campaigner, but she seems relatively normal and sane, and that counts for a lot these days. Besides, I remember when the alternatives were trotted before us just last year, after Cameron quit over Brexit, and I don’t remember any of those Tories being particularly appetizing.

Anyway, very disappointing. I’d just like to see things settle down for a bit so the world can take a moment to catch its breath. Is that too much to ask?

It’s just a mess. I watched a man-on-the-street video over on The Guardian‘s site, and people who voted Labour gave lame excuses about how things needed to “change.” Well, nothing’s changed — power has not changed hands — except that the party that’s still in charge is now crippled.

I don’t see how that benefits anybody, especially with Brexit negotiations coming up

By THOR - Summer Sky in Southsea England, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5057853

By THOR – Summer Sky in Southsea England, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5057853

In the past, even the great were satisfied with so much less

That's the Little White House itself in the background. The building in the foreground contains servant's quarters.

That cottage in the background is the Little White House. The building in the foreground contains servant’s quarters.

That headline sounds a bit like the kind of judgmental cliche you hear from your cranky old grandpa, like, “Why back in my day, we didn’t have your fancy-schmancy devices, and we liked it!”

But actually, this is about a realization I’ve come to over time regarding the way things were in a time before my time, based on physical evidence I’ve encountered.

Over the weekend, my wife and I drove our twin granddaughters to their summer camp in Warm Springs, Ga. That place name is redolent with history, so we weren’t going to go all that way without seeing the “Little White House,” where FDR stayed when he went there for the waters, and where he set up institutions for helping people with all sorts of handicaps.wheelchair

I highly recommend going to see it, and the nice little museum the state of Georgia has put next to it, with all sorts of artifacts such as a couple of FDR’s modified cars, a special wheelchair to use at the pool, hats, canes, cigarette holders, and lots of stories not only about the Roosevelts, but of regular folks who lived through those extraordinary times.

Of course I went into grandfather mode, pointing out things that I hoped would help our little girls understand that time. At one point, I called them over to a photograph of Roosevelt seated at a dinner next to a young boy (possibly another polio victim) and flashing him that great FDR grin. And I told the girls this was what FDR did for the whole country — he rose above all the setbacks and suffering of his own life, and put extraordinary energy into keeping everyone else’s spirits up. (If only I had a small fraction of that strength of character!)

Another exhibit helped me drive that point home — a small kitchen set up with period appliances (I explained to them what an icebox was), including a modest little radio that was playing one of the president’s Fireside Chats.

Anyway, once again, I recommend it.

But I wanted to share an impression I personally gained from what I saw. It was in the truly tiny “Little White House” itself. I couldn’t help thinking, This was the favored retreat of this great, patrician man who held the fate of the world in his hands? Few upper-middle-class types today, much less someone with the stature of a Roosevelt (were there any such people today) would be satisfied with this as a second home, based on what I see down on our coast.

The point was driven home when I saw the room, and the bed, in which he died. The room could barely contain the tiny single bed in which he lay. There was hardly enough space to walk past it. The bed itself reminds me of the twin beds that my brother and I slept in when I was about 8.

And this was not an anomaly. Since Hobcaw Barony is a client of ADCO’s, I’ve had occasion to visit Bernard Baruch’s house there, preserved much as it was when he lived there. It has its nods to grandeur, to be sure, some of the rooms containing some very fine things. But I was struck by the smallness, the dumpiness even, of the beds and rooms where FDR and Winston Churchill slept when they were visiting the great man.

Yes, these were vacation homes, and those who owned and visited them were no doubt deliberately embracing a certain ethic of “roughing it.”

But it still strikes me as amazing, when I consider the kinds of accommodations that so many people expect as the norm today.

And it made me think even better of the people who went before us, and shaped the world in which we live…

FDR's bed

So then, what’s the ‘Texas Stack’ going to look like?

 

Alternative headline: “What’s all this, then, eh?

This ad, for a menu item McDonald’s only sells in Britain, is just beyond bizarre.

What were they thinking? This would be like Americans promoting a “London Stack” with a guy wearing a tam o’ shanter and kilt and complaining about how much the meal costs.

Reference is made to a “sweet and tangy South Carolina sauce.” That would be a bit of a step up. Have you ever tried the ketchup in a McDonald’s in England? I have. It’s the weirdest. They seem to leave the vinegar out — it’s just pure sweetness. No tang at all. It comes in the same little packets that say “Heinz” on them, but it’s nothing like American ketchup. Ask for some brown sauce instead…

Tony thinks we’ll be OK. Let’s hope he’s right, as usual

Tony has always been one to feel our pain.

Our pal Tony has always been one to feel our pain.

Bryan calls my attention to the fact that while my main man Tony Blair is very concerned about the state of liberal democracy in Europe, he thinks his American friends will weather the Trump crisis:

WASHINGTON — Former British prime minister Tony Blair warns that political upheaval from Great Britain’s Brexit vote in June to the collapse of the Italian government on Sunday signals the most dangerous time for Western democracies in decades….

It has been a year of unexpected victories by populist and nationalistic forces that are challenging the establishment: passage of the referendum pulling Britain from the European Union, the election of Donald Trump as president in the United States, defeat of a measure in Italy that prompted the prime minister to announce his resignation.

And in the Austrian election Sunday, the candidate representing the party founded by former Nazis lost — but after commanding 46% of the vote….

“I’m less worried about America than I am about Europe; I’ll be very frank with you,” he said. “America is such a strong country and you’ve got so many checks-and-balances and you’ve got such resilience in your economy and so on; you guys will do fine, I’m sure. In Europe, we have systems that are at a point of fragility that troubles me.”…

Tony’s almost always right. Here’s hoping he is this time. Although for once, I doubt him. Rome thought it was big enough and strong enough and had checks and balances, too…

Just in time, a comforting message from Her Majesty

Since Friday night, my wife and I have been semi-bingeing (I think we’ve seen five episodes so far) on “The Crown,” the new series from Netflix.

So it seems a delightful coincidence that Samuel Tenenbaum shares the following important message with me via email.royal_coat_of_arms_of_the_united_kingdom-svg

I find it comforting, a warm embrace from our Mother Country, just when we were thoroughly traumatized and needed one.

(Digression: As you know, I’ve been listening to the music from “Hamilton” lately, and have enjoyed the songs sung by “King George” in the play… although I think there’s a good bit of Rebel propaganda in that version. I prefer the clip above from HBO’s “John Adams,” which is pretty much word-for-word accurate, according to David McCullough’s biography. You can easily see that while His Majesty didn’t want us to go, he was quite willing to be a sport about it, after the fact.)

Anyway, here’s the message. It has apparently been passed around on the Web so much that no one knows who originated it. So, you know, it could actually be from Elizabeth Windsor:

A MESSAGE FROM THE QUEEN

To the citizens of the United States of America from Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
In light of your failure to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately. (You should look up ‘revocation’ in the Oxford English Dictionary.)

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except North Dakota, which she does not fancy).
Your new Prime Minister, Theresa May, will appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections.
Congress and the Senate will be disbanded.
A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.
To aid in the transition to a British Crown dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:
———————–
1. The letter ‘U’ will be reinstated in words such as ‘colour,’ ‘favour,’ ‘labour’ and ‘neighbour.’ Likewise, you will learn to spell ‘doughnut’ without skipping half the letters, and the suffix ‘-ize’ will be replaced by the suffix ‘-ise.’
Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up ‘vocabulary’).
————————
2. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as ”like’ and ‘you know’ is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as U.S. English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter ‘u” and the elimination of ‘-ize.’
——————-
3. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.
—————–
4. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you’re not quite ready to be independent. Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can’t sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you’re not ready to shoot grouse.
———————-
5. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. Although a permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.
———————-
6. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left side with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.
——————–
7. The former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) of roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it.
——————-
8. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup, but with vinegar.
——————-
9. The cold, tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also acceptable, as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of the British Commonwealth – see what it did for them. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat’s Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.
———————
10. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie Macdowell attempt English dialect in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one’s ears removed with a cheese grater.
———————
11. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies).
———————
12. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.
——————–
13.. You must tell us who killed JFK. It’s been driving us mad.
—————–
14. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty’s Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).
—————
15. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 p.m. with proper cups, with saucers, and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; plus strawberries (with cream) when in season.
God Save the Queen!
PS: Only share this with friends who have a good sense of humour (NOT humor)!

Personally, I can go along with all of the conditions except 3, 6 and 12. If Her Majesty insists on those points, I’m afraid we’ll have to keep muddling on without her….

Maybe it takes a Brit to get us to face ourselves

635890934224265787884431994_new-harry-potter-story-halloween

Apparently, all Hogwarts is worried that He Who Must Not Be Named could occupy the most powerful position in the Muggle world.

A friend brought this Tweet out of Hogwarts to my attention:

Yeah, I know: She can’t even vote here. But the Brits are our best friends in the world, and sometimes you need your friends to tell you to take a good look at yourself.

As for those who think she should butt out, she has this good answer:

Folks, this isn’t just about this country; this is about the kind of world we will all live in in the future. And everybody has a stake in it. Even in Hogwarts, the possibility that He Who Must Not Be Named could be elected to the most powerful position in Muggle world is a cause of great concern. (And you’ll notice, she did not name him.)…

Brits are at their most creative when describing bad tea

Arthur Dent, yearning for a true cuppa...

Arthur Dent, yearning for a true cuppa…

This is something that I just realized.

All who have read Douglas Adams are familiar with this gem:

After a fairly shaky start to the day, Arthur’s mind was beginning to reassemble itself from the shell-shocked fragments the previous day had left him with.

He had found a Nutri-Matic machine which had provided him with a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

The way it functioned was very interesting. When the Drink button was pressed it made an instant but highly detailed examination of the subject’s taste buds, a spectroscopic analysis of the subject’s metabolism and then sent tiny experimental signals down the neural pathways to the taste centers of the subject’s brain to see what was likely to go down well. However, no one knew quite why it did this because it invariably delivered a cupful of liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea….

That one never fails to delight.

But recently, rereading Patrick O’Brian’s The Fortune of War, I was struck by the height of creativity to which he rose in describing Stephen Maturin’s suffering upon the occasion of his being served tea by Americans:

tea 1tea 2

… which, while drier, I found almost as delightful as Adams’ characterization.

Apparently, there is something in the experience of drinking bad tea that kicks the brains of British writers into a higher gear….

 

Right! What’s all this, then…? What are you on about?

Our regular contributor Jeff Mobley raised this question today on Twitter:

What followed was a clip showing the end of David Cameron’s presser when he announced he’d be leaving as P.M. After which he walks into the house humming to himself.

I could only answer that I wasn’t sure, but what I truly loved was that perfectly British, clipped “Right!” at the very end… Like that’s that, then! Stiff upper lip, what?  Stay calm and carry on…

back of Cameron

Having voted to exit, Brits now wonder, ‘What is the E.U.?’

Forgive me for using your signature line, Dave Barry, but I am not making this up.

Since all those awful headlines about Brexit disturbed me so much, I was wondering whether the full impact was hitting some “Leave” voters and making them have second thoughts.

Well, yes. The Washington Post had this quote today:

“Even though I voted to leave, this morning I woke up and I just — the reality did actually hit me,” one woman told the news channel ITV News. “If I’d had the opportunity to vote again, it would be to stay.”

So it appears some Brits who voted on this perhaps didn’t consider what they were doing carefully enough beforehand.

Actually, it’s much, much worse than that.

Today, faced with all the madness in the wake of the vote, here were the most popular Google searches in Britain:

You know, the sort of search you might expect a voter to have started with months ago, if he or she intended to vote yesterday. Followed up by a whole lot of other questions.

Seriously. They did not have an effing clue.

I mean, here I was, feeling bad that I didn’t focus enough on the referendum to have fully made my mind up before yesterday, and yet I — a Yank who had no say in the matter — had been far more conscientious about the issue than these twits who got to vote on it.

Of course, the feckless Brits are not alone. Wonder how people in this country could vote for someone as clueness and ridiculous as Donald Trump? It’s because of stuff like this…

Why do Brexit fans wave Union Jack in celebration, when they just voted to do away with it?

Farage

I keep seeing images of Nigel Farage and other fans of Brexit celebrating their win by waving the Union Jack.

Which is really ironic, and seems to indicate a lack of thinking things through on their part. Which, under the circumstances, isn’t terribly surprising.

Already, Scotland — which voted strongly to remain in the E.U. — is girding itself for another vote for independence, and this time it seems likely that they’ll succeed in seceding.

As I Tweeted in the midst of it all last night:

And that, of course, would mean the end of the Union Jack. Right? I mean, how could you keep the St. Andrew’s Cross after that?

Flag of England

Flag of England

For those who haven’t paid attention the last few centuries, the Union Jack represents the union of England and Scotland, hence the combination of the St. George’s and St. Andrew’s crosses.

True, I’m no expert on heraldry or anything. Maybe an independent Scotland would still be part of the Queen’s realm, and she could still fly the Union flag when she’s in residence at her palace.

But still… that’s a rather empty sort of union these days, isn’t it?

Here’s the flag they should be waving, since this is what they voted for. Not quite as satisfying to look at, is it?

Union Jack

Forboding headlines from our Mother Country

I went to bed last night fairly certain that Britain would soon be out of the E.U., after a couple of hours of being buffeted back and forth by SkyNews — Newcastle says leave, Liverpool says stay, Edinburgh stay, Manchester stay, Birmingham leave — and watching the numbers creep, like a tide going out, from slightly in favor of remain to increasingly for leave.

But I wasn’t quite prepared for the barrage of dismal tidings when I first looked at my phone this morning:

Brexit 1

Merkel

brexit 3

Brexit 2

And then, a bit later:

stocks

What a barrage. And as if that weren’t enough, in case we were still unsure this was bad news, we had Donald Trump assuring us that Brexit was “a great thing.”

I started imagining what the map of Britain would look like in the future. England and Wales and maybe, way off to the upper left, Northern Ireland…

I found myself almost immediately wondering how much worse it could get. We know Boris Johnson is poised to take Cameron’s place. But… what if the Tories lose control, and there’s an election that puts that leftist lunatic Jeremy Corbyn in No. 10?

Which is a more precious right: freedom to travel or guns?

Note that I did not ask which is constitutionally protected. I’m asking which is more fundamental to a free people.

Whenever we talk about barring people on no-fly lists or terror watch lists from obtaining firearms, Bryan or someone else will make the point that we would then be taking away a constitutionally protected right without due process — since those travel lists maintained by law enforcement don’t involve judgments by courts.

Good point, logically and legally sound. It “is a lucid, intelligent, well thought-out objection.”

We have the freedom to put on out travel vests and go where we like, no matter how ridiculous we may look.

We have the freedom to put on our travel vests and go where we like, no matter how ridiculous we may look.

But for me, it raises another question. Which is more fundamental to our basic, everyday liberty: The freedom to travel, to go where we choose within these United States whenever we like? Or the right to bear arms?

I would think the first one is. No, it’s not plainly addressed in the Bill of Rights the way guns are, but it’s protected by the Privileges and Immunities Clause — in other words, in the actual main body of the Constitution as opposed to the afterthoughts. (And in a sense the whole Constitution was an attempt to break down barriers between states and make a more perfect union, which would include moving about freely from state to state.)

We who are not on watch lists sort of take it for granted. People in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union did not, with their internal passports and other requirements to have the right papers to be here or there at a particular time. When I read about such things during the Cold War, I thought that difference as much as anything else illustrated the contrast between our countries. (Actually, I see that Russia, China, Iraq and Ukraine still have such systems. Huh.)

The right to bear arms is not such an essential divider between free and unfree countries — other liberal democracies don’t share this, um, “blessing” with us.

No, it doesn’t have a whole cult built up around it the way the 2nd Amendment does. But isn’t the freedom to move about even more precious than the right to go armed?

A heads-up: Collapse of western civilization imminent, says this one bloke

The Brexit rhetoric just heated up a notch. From The Guardian:

David Cameron and his Remain colleagues have repeatedly been accused of scaremongering. Recession, rising unemployment, rising prices, rising interest rates, falling house prices, further rise of international conflict (although not necessarily “world war three”, which was Boris Johnson’s parody) – there seems to be no end to the list of negative consequences from Brexit that Cameron has been warning people about.

But Donald Tusk, president of the European council, has gone much further. If Britain leaves the EU, that could eventually end up with the downfall of Western civilisation, he says.

He made the comment in an interview with the German newspaper Bild. Some extracts were released yesterday, but the full article became available today.

Reuters has written it up as a story. Here’s the key quote from Tusk.

Why is it so dangerous? Because no one can foresee what the long-term consequences would be. As a historian I fear that Brexit could be the beginning of the destruction of not only the EU but also of western political civilization in its entirety.

I must confess that unlike that Polish cove (and yes, I realize my grasp of British slang is a bit outdated), I have not yet made up my mind — even though it’s a huge issue involving a country I love.

Donald Tusk

That Polish cove, Donald Tusk

On the one hand, I don’t like people on the continent telling the British people how to live — Bonaparte tried that, until Nelson and Wellington sorted him out. Emotionally, I dislike anything that might make Britain even marginally less British. Tell them, Professor.

On the other, we have establishment figures (and y’all know how I love me some Establishment) from President Obama to PM Cameron, coming out against it — although I found our president’s threat that Britain would go to the back of the queue on trade deals unconvincing. Lindsey Graham and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, they say the same, on collective security grounds.

But I’m still unsure which side to root for. You?

By comparison, Bernie is practically a moderate

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn By Garry Knight - https://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/26392896430/, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48525044

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn By Garry Knight – https://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/26392896430/, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48525044

Writing about George Will’s column about Paul Ryan and Donald Trump earlier this week reminded me of a recent piece he did while in England writing about Brexit. The column I have in mind consisted mostly of marveling at what a total flake Jeremy Corbyn, the current leader of the Labour Party, is.

An excerpt:

That year, Corbyn was elected to the House of Commons. He spent his next 32 years opposing the monarchy; writing columns for a communist newspaper; expressing admiration for Hugo Chávez, whose socialism propelled Venezuela toward today’s chaos; proposing that taxpayers should be permitted to opt out of paying for Britain’s army; advocating that Britain leave NATO and unilaterally scrap its nuclear deterrent; blaming NATO, meaning the United States, for Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine; calling the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah “friends”; appearing with and funding Holocaust deniers and other anti-Semites; criticizing China’s Communist regime for deviationism in accepting some free markets; demanding that Tony Blair, the only Labour leader since 1976 to win a general election (three of them), be tried as a war criminal (for supporting the Iraq War); praising Iraqi insurgents killing Americans; and calling the killing of Osama bin Laden a “tragedy.” Along the way, Corbyn got divorced because his wife insisted on sending their eldest son to a selective school whose admissions policy recognized merit.

Last September, in a Labour Party process in which an intense fraction of 1 percent of the British electorate participated — a cohort intensely interested in things other than winning the next election — Corbyn was elected party leader with 59.5 percent of the vote in a four-way contest. He promptly named as shadow chancellor of the exchequer a former union official who lists in “Who’s Who” his hobby as “fomenting the overthrow of capitalism,” who says he was joking when he said that if he could relive the 1980s he would have assassinated Thatcher but who was serious when he praised IRA terrorist bombers. Corbyn’s shadow farming minister, a vegan, says, “Meat should be treated in exactly the same way as tobacco, with public campaigns to stop people eating it.” Corbyn, appearing with unmatched jacket and trousers and with his tie loosened at a St. Paul’s Cathedral service commemorating the Royal Air Force’s heroism in the Battle of Britain, refused to sing the national anthem.

Wow. Practically makes Bernie Sanders look like a moderate member of the Establishment — and a natty dresser to boot.

Actually, Will saw more of a comparison to Trump, as noted in his lede:

Misery loves company, so refugees from America’s Republican Party should understand that theirs is not the only party that has chosen a leader who confirms caricatures of it while repudiating its purposes.Jeremy Corbyn, the silliest leader in the British Labour Party’s 116-year history, might kill satire as well as whatever remains of socialism….

But what he writes about Corbyn highlights how far into extremism Labour has fallen since my man Tony Blair’s day.

Which brings me to an editorial today in The Wall Street Journal, “The Clinton Restoration.” The editors stress how far away from her husband’s and Blair’s Third Way politics Hillary Clinton has moved.

Some of that is true, and I blame Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and their admirers in the party. But aside from all the Identity Politics stuff (it’s been less than two days, and I’m already tired of hearing how “historic” her nomination is), I still think Hillary’s heart is more centrist than that — and she can be downright hawkish when it comes to national and collective security.

The WSJ editors sort of acknowledge that when they grudgingly grant that “We have some hope that she would come around to support the Pacific trade deal.” I hope so, too; and if they think it’s possible, I’m even more encouraged.

This is going to be a tough few months for that editorial board. To their minds, Hillary Clinton presents such a huge, inviting target. And yet they know what a disaster Donald Trump is, and would be…

I’m glad my girls are home from Tel Aviv

A shot one of my daughters took in Jerusalem.

A shot one of my daughters took in Jerusalem.

My two youngest daughters returned over the weekend from a friend’s wedding in Tel Aviv — that is, one is back home here, and the other is back in Bangkok.

I was relieved when they were back in their respective homes. I didn’t really worry about them being in Israel on a rational level. Even when there is a terrorist attack in a given city on a certain day, 99.999 percent of the citizens are unharmed by it.

When I think about the odds of coming to harm in a relative “trouble spot” in the world, I think of my experience covering the simultaneous fire and police strikes in Memphis in 1978. It was a huge national story, and if you followed it on TV you’d think the city was on fire, with no one to put the fire out or keep order. And yet, most people were entirely unaffected. I was in a Memphis restaurant at the start of the curfew imposed because of the “emergency,” and the customers being turned away were surprised and irritated — they thought it ridiculous.

At one point, I found myself part of an impromptu press gaggle with a senior official on a street in Midtown. Tired of trying to press my way through the mob, and realizing I wasn’t really getting anything out of it, I stepped away. I walked across the street, and looked back. The clamoring knot of media types made it look like something exciting was going on. That was a shot that might make it onto TV news, if there were no fires to shoot.

Then I conducted an experiment. I turned slowly around, my line of vision passing through all 360 degrees. And all around me was complete, unperturbed peace and order. Only in maybe five degrees was there disorder — and that would have decreased if I stepped a few more yards away.

Ever since then, I’ve kept in mind that perspective whenever I think about the risks of being in a troubled country or city.

So on that level, I didn’t worry about my daughters being in Israel — mostly in Tel Aviv and Jaffa, but with side trips to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. I knew that they were probably safer there than in peaceful Thailand, what with the traffic in Bangkok (oh, I wish I hadn’t just thought of that).

Besides, I didn’t see any reports of violence anywhere in the country while they were there.

But that was just the rational level. I’m a Dad, so there was a tiny bit of irrational worry while they were there in a country surrounded by people who don’t want it to exist.

So I’m glad they’re back, especially in light of this:

At least four people were killed and five wounded in a mass shooting at an upscale market in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. CBS reported that police were saying that two suspected terrorists had been “neutralized” after the attack at Sharona market, while Haaretz reported that the suspects had been taken into custody.

God have mercy on the victims of this atrocity and their families. To them, of course, it’s little solace that most people in Israel were unharmed.

My girls, posing and mugging in Tel Aviv.

My girls, posing and mugging in Tel Aviv.

What has government ever done for us?

The New York Times decided to have a bit of fun with the upcoming Brexit vote. Noting that a lot of Britons can be heard saying, “What has Europe ever done for us?,” the NYT’s editors harked back to the classic Monty Python bit in which a group of first-century Palestinian revolutionaries indignantly ask the same about the Romans.

Only to come up with a LONG list of examples, causing their leader, played by John Cleese, to rephrase his question:

But apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the freshwater system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

Good stuff.

But of course, whenever I see the clip, I hear the voices of all the people who insist that government is the problem, not the solution.

Unfortunately, after years of being governed by folks like that — or at least, folks who walk in fear of the Grover Norquists of the world — many of the blessings of a civilized government are falling apart. Thereby putting us in a situation in which government actually is doing less of what it should do for us, or at least doing it less well. Which convinces more people that government is no damn’ good, which causes more such people to be elected, and so forth…

Anyway, that’s sort of what my friends over at The State are on about with their new series, “How SC’s leaders have failed South Carolinians.”

And they have failed us. Because if our elected officials can’t manage to keep the basic functions of government up and running properly, what indeed have the Romans ever done for us?

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