Author Archives: Brad Warthen

House begins a shadowy reapportionment process

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We have this report today from Lynn Teague, to whom we owe so much for her diligence in following this process:

Making Democracy Work in SC: House Redistricting Ad Hoc Committee meets

 The House held the first meeting of their Redistricting Ad Hoc Committee this morning, Tuesday, August 3, in Room 110 of the Blatt Building. The committee includes Chairman Jay Jordan, Jr., and representatives Bamberg, Bernstein, Collins, Elliott, Henegan, Brandon Newton and Weston Newton.

After a lengthy delay in starting, the committee discussed – without revealing – a schedule for public hearings on redistricting. The meetings will occur well after August 16 receipt of Census Bureau data and will end on October 4. In response to a question from the committee, Chairman Jordan indicated that the House will not allow virtual testimony from the public, despite growing pandemic conditions. Technical difficulties were cited as the reason.

Since the General Assembly is expected to return at a date (not yet announced) in October and vote on final maps, it seems likely that the House hearings will be focused on giving the public a look at the maps that the House committee has decided to propose.

The House public meetings will not address criteria because that was decided today without public input. The committee voted (with no discussion from any member) to adopt the previous House guidelines. I have attached those to this Update. Incumbent protection will continue to be an accepted criterion and indeed a priority.

We were told that the public hearing schedule will be posted at some time, possibly today but possibly later. Chairman Jordan suggested that the public look for the webpage link under the list of House Judiciary subcommittees at www.scstatehouse.gov. In 2011 the information was posted at www.redistricting.schouse.gov, but at present that page is not available.

Lynn

Lynn Shuler Teague

VP for Issues and Action, LWVSC

Note that there will be no virtual testimony from the public because of alleged “technical difficulties.” The public will get a look at the maps once the House has decided upon them. But don’t worry; everything is well in hand: “Incumbent protection will continue to be an accepted criterion and indeed a priority.”

So no worries, right?

Meanwhile, here are those guidelines reaffirmed without public input:

2011 (and now 2021) Guidelines and Criteria For Congressional and Legislative Redistricting

The South Carolina House of Representatives, the House Judiciary Committee, and the House Election Laws Subcommittee have the authority to determine the criteria that the South Carolina House of Representatives will use to create Congressional and legislative districts. Therefore, the Election Laws Subcommittee of the South Carolina House of Representatives adopts as its criteria these guidelines and criteria.

  1. Constitutional Law

Redistricting plans shall comply with the United States Constitution and the opinions of the United States Supreme Court.

  1. Voting Rights Act.

Redistricting plans shall comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended. Pursuant to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and in accordance with the opinions of the Supreme Court, race may be a factor considered in the creation of redistricting plans, but it must not be the predominant factor motivating the legislature’s decisions concerning the redistricting plan and

must not unconstitutionally predominate over other criteria set forth in these guidelines. The dilution of racial or ethnic minority voting strength is contrary to the laws of the United States and of the State of South Carolina, and also is against the public policy of this state. Accordingly, these criteria are subordinate to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended, and the laws of the United States or of the State of South Carolina. Any proposed redistricting plan that is demonstrated to have the intent or effect of dispersing or concentrating minority population in a manner that prevents minorities from electing their candidates of choice will neither be accepted nor approved.

III. State Constitution and Laws.

Except as otherwise required by the Constitution and laws of the United States, redistricting plans also shall comply with the South Carolina Constitution and the laws of this state.

  1. Equal Population/Deviation
  2. The population of the Congressional and legislative districts will be determined based solely on the enumeration of the 2010 federal decennial census pursuant to the United States Constitution, Article I, Section 2.
  3. The number of persons in Congressional districts shall be nearly equal as is practicable. The ideal population for Congressional districts shall be 660,766. In every case, efforts shall be made to achieve strict equality or produce the lowest overall range of deviation possible when taking into consideration geographic limitations.
  4. The ideal population for a South Carolina House of Representatives district shall be 37,301. In every case, efforts should be made to limit the overall range of deviation from the ideal population to less than five percent, or a relative deviation in excess of plus or minus two and one-half percent for each South Carolina House district. Nevertheless, any overall deviation greater than five percent from equality of population among South Carolina House districts shall be justified when it is the result of geographic limitations, the promotion of a constitutionally permissible state policy, or to otherwise comply with the criteria identified in these guidelines.
  5. Contiguity

Congressional and legislative districts shall be comprised of contiguous territory. Contiguity by water is sufficient. Areas which meet only at the points of adjoining corners shall not be considered contiguous.

  1. Compactness

Congressional and legislative districts shall be compact in form and shall follow census geography. Bizarre shapes are to be avoided except when required by one or more of the following factors: (a) census geography; (b) efforts to achieve equal population, as is practicable; or (c) efforts to comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended. Compactness may require the division of population concentrations when to do otherwise would mean dramatically altering the character of a district or would require tortuous configuration of an adjoining district.

Compactness will be judged in part by the configuration of prior plans. Particular reference will be made to prior plans implemented after the 2000 census because these configurations more accurately reflect the present realities imposed by the state’s most recent ongoing population shifts. Compactness will not be judged based upon any mathematical, statistical, or formula-based calculation or determination.

VII. Communities Of Interest

Communities of interest shall be considered in the redistricting process. A variety of factors may contribute to a community of interest including, but not limited to the following: (a) economic; (b) social and cultural; (c) historic influences; (d) political beliefs; (e) voting behavior; (f) governmental services; (g) commonality of communications; and (h) geographic location and features. Communities of interest shall be considered and balanced by the Election Laws Subcommittee, the House Judiciary Committee, and the South Carolina House of Representatives. County boundaries, municipality boundaries, and precinct lines (as represented by the Census Bureau’s Voting Tabulation District lines) may be considered as evidence of communities of interest to be balanced, but will be given no greater weight, as a matter of state policy, than other identifiable communities of interest.

It is possible that competing communities of interest will be identified during the redistricting process. Although it may not be possible to accommodate all communities of interests, the Election Laws Subcommittee, the House Judiciary Committee, and the South Carolina House of Representatives will attempt to accommodate diverse communities of interest to the extent possible.

VIII. Incumbency Protection

Incumbency protection shall be considered in the reapportionment process. Reasonable efforts shall be made to ensure that incumbent legislators remain in their current districts. Reasonable efforts shall be made to ensure that incumbent legislators are not placed into districts where they will be compelled to run against other incumbent members of the South Carolina House of Representatives.

  1. Priority Of Criteria
  2. In establishing congressional and legislative districts, all criteria identified in these guidelines shall be considered. However, if there is a conflict among the requirements of these guidelines, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (as amended), equality of population among districts, and the United States Constitution shall be given priority.
  3. If application of the criteria set forth in these guidelines will cause a violation of applicable constitutional, federal, or state law, and there is no other way to conform to the criteria without a violation of law, deviations from the criteria are permitted. However, any deviation from the criteria shall not be any more than necessary to avoid the violation of law, and the remainder of the redistricting plan shall remain faithful to the criteria.
  4. Public Input

Subcommittee shall make reasonable efforts to be transparent and allow public input into the redistricting process.

What? You mean that guy’s still governor of New York?

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About a week ago, I ran across the name of Andrew Cuomo in The New York Times, and saw that they still referred to him as “governor.” (Or maybe just “Gov.” before his name. I can’t find the piece right now.)

I hadn’t seen the name in awhile, and my first reaction was, Really? That guy is still governor of the state of New York?

And when I got this notification on my phone this morning, I had the same thought again: “New York Gov. Cuomo Sexually Harassed Multiple Women, Investigation Finds.

Well, actually, I had two thoughts. The first one was to the statement in the headline itself: Yeah, we all knew that.

The second thought was Really? You mean that guy is still governor up there?

Perhaps you will have other thoughts. Personally, I dismissed this sleazeball quite a while back. I see that I last made a reference to him here, in an open thread on March 10:

What about that Cuomo guy? — I’ve never paid much attention to this guy, which was probably wise on my part. I’m not hearing anything good about him. And I don’t just mean the nursing-home deaths. I mean, who hires a 25-year-old “health adviser?” This guy does, if he likes her looks. Wow. Have you seen the picture included with this story about the gov making his unwelcome moves on a tiny, vulnerable, appalled young woman? He looks like Dracula with his latest victim. What a jerk. By the way, I have a problem with the hed to that Gail Collins column I linked to above: “Sex and the Single Governor.” He married Kerry Kennedy in 1990 and they have three kids. Yeah, they divorced in 2005. But he’s Catholic; she’s Catholic. He’s not “single.”

Yo, New York: Deal with your problem. We have enough headaches dealing with the various absurdities cranked out on a regular basis by our own governor. I don’t have time to waste worrying about yours

Missing the point on gerrymandering

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As y’all know, I’m no fan of Identity Politics. Often, though, I seem to fail to explain why to the satisfaction of all my readers. Let me try again.

Today, I eagerly called up an op-ed piece in The Washington Post that was headlined, “The voting fix that cannot wait: Stopping partisan gerrymandering.” I did so harrumphing to myself, Yes, yes, quite right…

But it wasn’t quite right at all. The writer seemed to fail to understand why gerrymandering is a problem, one that is perverting our politics and tearing the country apart. He starts out this way:

The recent wave of voter suppression laws has rightly drawn much attention. But another, even more pernicious wave of anti-voter laws will begin shortly: the redrawing of congressional maps. Unless Congress acts quickly, Americans are on the verge of some of the most aggressive gerrymandering in the country’s history. Inevitably, communities of color, which provided almost all of the country’s growth over the past decade, will bear the brunt of this anti-democratic line-drawing….

His misconception of the problem with the way we redistrict wasn’t confined to his lede. He kept coming back to it again…

Such a ban — along with beefed-up remedies for abuses and uniform standards for drawing maps, including strengthened protections for communities of color — would amount to the most consequential federal redistricting legislation in history….

And again…

What can we expect going forward? In the South, where most of the redistricting hot spots are located, gerrymanders historically have come at the expense of communities of color. This cycle could be even worse….

And again…

Federal legislation would transform how congressional districts are drawn, stepping in where the Supreme Court has stepped out, to restore fairness to the process and strengthen frayed legal protections for communities of color. It also would make it easier and faster for voters to challenge politically or racially discriminatory maps in court, and for the first time require meaningful transparency in a process that historically has taken place behind closed doors….

“Color” appears five times in the piece. Worse, there’s not a mention of “extremism” or “radicalization.” Which, of course, is the real problem with letting the party in power draw the lines for the next decade’s elections: It not only turns primaries into the real election, but causes those primaries to be contests to see which candidate can best appeal to the most committed extremists — the most loyal voters in such party contests. And election after election, the incumbents go farther and farther out on the wings in order to chase away nuttier opponents in the next primary. The members of the two parties give up talking across the aisle, and our republic falls apart.

And if you make the conversation about race, you help them do it. We’ve seen this in every reapportionment since 1990. That’s when Republicans discovered that if they draw a few more “majority-minority districts,” they can create a LOT more unnaturally white districts. Herding all the minorities into (as we’ve seen in South Carolina) a single congressional district, for instance, guarantees that the rest of the state’s delegation will be (with the occasionally brief exception such as the one we saw in the 1st District from 2018 to 2020), fully Republican.

And in election after election, the incumbents and certainly their challengers get more and more extreme. As we saw during the Tea Party and Freedom Caucus stages, leading to the insanity of Trumpism. And now we have a crowd lining up to toss out Tom Rice for the sin of failing to worship the idiot who is their master with sufficient ardor.

Bottom line, if you make it about race, you not only fail to address the real problem, but you can make it worse. As we’ve seen.

What we need is diverse districts — diverse in ways that go far beyond the superficial measure of the color of voters’ skins — that reflect entire, real communities. Not “communities of color” (which apparently is this column writer’s favorite phrase) or communities of ideological nutballs, but true communities that include all people, and elect representatives who try in good faith to serve all of those people.

That’s the only way to save the country from gerrymandering…

Paul DeMarco: The Meaning of a Life

The Op-Ed Page

AG Park 2021 7 31 Wide view

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

July 30 was a remarkable day for Marion County. We dedicated the Amazing Grace Park, built to honor former state senator and minister Clementa Pinckney, who was killed in 2015 in the Emmanuel Nine massacre. Although Clementa (pronounced “Clemen-tay”) was not born in Marion County, his mother was raised here and he is buried in the family plot near the eastern edge of the county.

Our local state senator, Kent Williams, is Clementa’s cousin, and it has been a labor of love for him to shepherd the park into being.

The dedication gave full voice to the multiple facets of Clementa’s life – husband, father, citizen, politician, and as he described himself, “itinerant preacher.” To accommodate all those who came to pay tribute, including Governor McMaster, it was necessarily long (over 90 minutes) and South Carolina hot – the kind of heat that soaks the knot of your necktie. I came late and missed out on a seat in the shade; it took four bottles of water to sustain me.

The best speech was by his daughter, Eliana, who will soon matriculate at Temple University. She reminded us of the meaning of legacy with a quote from the musical Hamilton – “planting seeds in a garden you will never see” – and asked that when we visit the park, we shoulder her father’s legacy and “live and love as he would.”

Eliana’s framework makes the park an extension of her father’s life. I can’t think of a better way to remember him. Few of us are immune to the effects of memorials, monuments and symbols. We feel their power, we are uplifted (or sometimes offended) by their messages. My former favorite is the Lincoln Memorial, at once awe-inspiring and intimate.

But, for me, the park will leap ahead of Lincoln because it is personal and accessible. Although I never knew Clem, as his family calls him, his park will become a new part of my identity as a Marion resident. It is a pretty mile-long walk from my home, one that I expect to travel on a regular basis.

In 1993, when my wife and I moved to Marion, the county seat of Marion County, the economic base of the region – textiles and tobacco – was unraveling. The next two decades saw much stagnation and loss: plants closed like falling dominoes, tobacco warehouses were abandoned to slowly crumble, and long-time businesses were shuttered. It’s depressing to look at photos of the Main Streets of Marion and Mullins from mid-century, when shops were bustling, and compare them to today. But over the last five years or so, powered mostly by young entrepreneurs, our Main Streets are reviving. The park, which is two blocks off Marion’s Main Street and adjacent to the Marion County Museum, will be an important step in our city’s recovery.

As important as the economic boost will be the spiritual one, which can be appreciated whether or not one claims a faith. Rev. Johnny Coe, a presiding elder in the AME denomination of which Clem was a part, reminded us of the verses in Luke describing Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. As the crowd chanted hosannas, some of the Pharisees urged Jesus to quiet them down. “’I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’”

Rev. Coe urged all the visitors to the park to keep Clem’s memory alive, to tell his story, so that the stones and the trees that surrounded us wouldn’t have to cry out instead.

Building a park is a risk, particularly in a county like Marion, whose future is in question. Locals hope that the charm of our shops, neighborhoods and countryside, the warmth of our people, and our proximity to the beach will produce a renaissance. Online shopping and remote work make rural living easier than ever. But most of the growth in our corner of the state has been in neighboring Horry County. The pull of urban amenities and schools may overwhelm the attractions that we offer.

Having lived the first thirty of my years in bigger places (Brooklyn, Wiesbaden, Charleston, Charlottesville and Columbia) I’m an ardent believer in small-town living. My 20-minute commute into Florence is the most relaxing I’ve ever had. The cost of living, especially home prices, is low. There is no night life to speak of, but I moved here with two young children and have never missed it. It’s been a lovely place to raise them.

The most inviting aspect of the park is its openness. There are no walls, no gate. We come to the park as vulnerable as Clem did the evening he welcomed Dylan Roof into his church. We come to enjoy the light and the grass and the flowers despite the knowledge that evil exists in the world and that, if we live our lives as openly and generously as Clem did, we could share his fate.

If we walk through the park in his shoes, we recognize the long line of martyrs he has joined, and we take up the baton of creating the beloved community. The park reminds us that there is more light in the world than darkness, and that no amount of hatred or violence can overcome it.

The park gets its name from Clem’s eulogy, delivered by President Obama at Mother Emmanuel, which he closed by singing a verse of the hymn. It was fitting that the dedication was closed with a version of “Amazing Grace” and a benediction by Bishop Michael Blue, a native son and dynamic preacher. He reminded us that the name “Clementa” is derived from a Latin root meaning “merciful.” “Let us go from this place,” he declared, “A park named ‘Grace’ for a man named ‘Mercy.’”

Dr. DeMarco is a physician who lives in Marion, and a long-time reader of this blog.

AG Park 2021 7 30 Bust with Wings

Anyone watching the Olympics? Why?

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I don’t pose that question as a challenge or anything. I’m not criticizing you for watching the games, if you are. I just think that right now, with the “asterisk games” going on, in defiance of the will of so many people in Japan, it would be interesting to have a discussion of why we think these games should or should not be happening, and why or why not we are interested.

Put me in the camp of those who believe that 1) the Olympics are a fine thing in the abstract, and I applaud those folks who revived them in 1896, but that 2) when the 2020 games were called off for COVID, everyone should have settled down to wait for 2024 to satisfy whatever craving they have for viewing Olympic competition.

Near as I can tell, there is only one reason to have gone ahead and had the games in 2021, rather than waiting, and that would be for the sakes of individual athletes for whom it’s either now or never. This was their moment, and they wouldn’t be at the same peak in 2024, so for them, not going ahead would have represented a personal loss.

I am not at all unsympathetic to that argument. It makes me think of my old friend Rayford Collins. Rayford worked in the composing room at my first newspaper after college, The Jackson Sun. As a compositor, he had a job that was essential to publishing a newspaper at the time — he would take the strips of copy that came out of the gigantic cold-type printer, cut them into columns with scissors, run them through a roller that applied molten wax to the back of them, and stick them onto the page under the highly irritating supervision of smart-ass college kids in their early 20s who came to the back shop to approve release of the pages that we had laid out and edited up front in the newsroom.

Rayford Collins in the early 60s during his own boxing career, long before I knew him.

Rayford Collins in the early 60s during his own boxing career, long before I knew him.

You should have seen the artistry of these guys as they cut the type and applied it, and often corrected typos we found by trimming out individual letters and sticking them over the errors, saving us from sending new copy back through.

But it was a job that would disappear long before my own did, as we moved to pagination, which meant we put the pages together on computers in the newsroom, and output them whole.

That wasn’t all Rayford was known for, though. An ex-boxer himself (he would end the process of applying type to the page with a BAM from his fist, which would be startling if you weren’t used to it), he had for years trained local young people in the art through Golden Gloves. He was such a good coach that a huge opportunity came his way: to coach the U.S.A Olympic boxing team in the 1980 games. His protege Jackie Beard had made the team, and they wanted Rayford on board, too.

We were all pretty excited for him. But then, the Russians invaded Afghanistan, and Jimmy Carter pulled us out of the Moscow Games. Raybord’s shot at the big time was crushed. I felt bad for him at the time, and I still do. But I don’t fault my man Jimmy for making the call he did. There are issues that are bigger than even the hopes and dreams of our friends. At least, that’s what I think, as a child of the Cold War. Maybe I’m wrong.

Anyway, Rayford still made his mark as a coach. When he died, he was celebrated for that, not for being a retired compositor after 45 years at the paper. We know he made it to the Olympics, even though the games were called off.

Anyway, these kids today are getting their shots.

Should they be? Should the Games have gone on? Are you following what’s happening over there, and rising and falling on this or that athlete’s accomplishments or lack thereof?

If so, I’m curious to hear about it…

DeMarco: Reconsidering Thomas Jefferson

The Op-Ed Page

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A version of this column appeared in the July 21st edition of the Florence Morning News.

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Reconsidering learned history is difficult. As we are educated, most of us create a world view that portrays the tribe with which we identify in a positive light. For most of America’s existence, schoolchildren have been taught a story favorable to whites. This narrative persists and tends to harden in adulthood.

As I wrote about in a previous post, I continue to learn that my formal and informal education about my country’s and world’s history has been skewed in my favor. This relearning has been particularly difficult with one of my heroes, Thomas Jefferson.

I am a proud class of 1985 graduate of the University of Virginia. More than most universities, UVa reflects the personality of its founder. As I walked the Lawn, I had a window into Jefferson’s expansive mind. I saw him at the drawing board at Monticello, poring over competing designs for his “academical village.”  I was grateful to be one of thousands of students he had inspired. I spent four years at the university in awe of Jefferson’s creativity, intellect, and eloquence.Jefferson

Although I knew he owned enslaved people, I never grappled with the awful reality of what that meant. Despite my four-year sojourn at UVa, I emerged with a child’s understanding of Jefferson. He was an icon, as near to a perfect American as there would ever be. This is partly my own fault; somehow I managed to graduate from UVa without taking any history courses.

One of the things I did learn about Jefferson while at his university was his epitaph. His gravestone is engraved with the following: “Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.” He was so accomplished that his two terms of president of the United States did not make the cut.

After I graduated, when rumors of Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman whom he owned, gradually bubbled into the press, I was skeptical. This information did not fit with the nearly faultless image I had fashioned for him. I was of the same mind as Dumas Malone who wrote an exhaustive six-volume biography, Jefferson and His Time. Malone opined in the fourth volume that the accusations related to Hemings were “distinctly out of character, being virtually unthinkable in a man of Jefferson’s moral standards and habitual conduct,” and I agreed.

However, in 1998 DNA evidence revealed that Jefferson could have been the father of one or more of Hemings’ six children. To be clear, the evidence is not definitive and there remains a group of scholars who argue strongly that it was another Jefferson relative (his younger brother, Randolph, seems the most likely candidate).

What is known is that Sally Hemings (who was 30 years younger than Thomas Jefferson) was herself the child of Jefferson’s father-in-law and an enslaved woman, Elizabeth Hemings. This made Sally Hemings half-sister to Jefferson’s wife, Martha.

I struggled with the fact that the possibility Jefferson could have been like many of the slave masters of his era who fathered children by their enslaved workers had never occurred to me (or was communicated to me) during my years at UVA. Despite seeing statues of Jefferson on the grounds almost every day, multiple visits to Monticello, and hours of reading, I had not fully reckoned with who Jefferson was. I saw what I wanted to see.

Irrespective of whether Jefferson was the father of Hemings’ children, my subsequent reading forced a deeper examination of the sharp contrast between Jefferson’s exalted words and his actions. Although he did make strong statements condemning slavery throughout his life, he was closely involved in the management and disciplining of the enslaved workers at Monticello. He, like many planters, would have been destitute without them. A nailery at Monticello, which ran mainly on the labors of 10- to 16-year-old boys, was critical to the economic stability of the plantation. The overseers occasionally whipped the children to ensure a sufficient output of nails, a practice about which Jefferson was fully aware. He also recognized the investment potential of enslaved people and calculated that “he was making a 4 percent profit every year on the birth of black children.”

It was unsettling to have my comfortable images of Jefferson transformed in such a disfiguring way. It highlighted for me the fact that when Jefferson wrote the words “All men are created equal,” he was writing about people like himself, white male landowners: not women, not people of color, nor even white men who did not own property. Certainly not Hemings.

I’ve been included in Jefferson’s vision since he penned it over two centuries ago. I have had to fight for none of my rights. My freedom, my ability to live where I wanted, to be educated where I chose, to compete for any job, to expect only respectful deference from the police or any other representatives of government has been guaranteed since the founding of the republic. Not so for so many others.

Seeing our nation for what it really is – both great and deeply flawed, like Jefferson himself – will allow us to better understand and support those for whom the American dream remains unrealized.

Dr. DeMarco is a physician who lives in Marion, and a long-time reader of this blog.

My shoes came! How are Y’ALL doing with the supply chain?

My new shoes. I need to break them in, but they're feeling pretty good...

My new shoes. I need to break them in, but they’re feeling pretty good…

My new shoes finally came! I’m wearing them right now. They feel pretty good so far, although it will take a while before they’re as comfortable as my old ones.

The old ones are a somewhat tattered pair of Salomon “Fellraisers,” which I got shortly before going to Thailand in 2015. I think of them as my “Thailand jungle shoes,” because when I got them, I was thinking about that day we planned to spend hiking through Khao Yai National Park. (Which was awesome.) Salomon calls them “trail-running shoes,” with knobby things on the bottoms meant to provide traction on natural, unpaved surfaces. I’m not planning on hiking through any tropical seasonal forests in the near future, but when these started wearing out on me, I wanted some more, for one simple reason:

They fit my feet better than any pair of shoes I’ve ever worn in my life. Far and away. It’s like they were painted onto my weird, narrow feet, for which I’ve always had trouble finding shoes that even come remotely close to fitting.

One problem: Salomon quit making the Fellraiser. (You may not know this, but the entire global economy seems to be built largely upon one little-known principle: Produce a product that Brad Warthen really, really likes. Wait until he realizes that, and truly appreciates the product. Then stop making it. I plan to write a post about this later.)

So I kinda freaked. But then I settled down, and started writing to Salomon to ask, as politely as I could, “What do you still make that is as much like the Fellraiser as possible?” They were helpful, and eventually I settled upon the Speedcross 5 Gore-Tex. I went for the color they somewhat ludicrously overdescribed as “Martini Olive / Peat / Arrowwood” (stuff like that always reminds me of Elaine Benes writing ad copy for J. Peterman, which makes me smile). They seemed the closest to my old ones, which in my unimaginative way I call “green.”

This was back in April. But I just got the shoes. Why? Because of the way the global supply chain got backed up by COVID. They told me in April to get back to them the second week of July. So I did, and it worked out, and that’s great.

But I was wondering what sorts of supply-chain problems the rest of you have been running into. Because this goes way beyond shoes.

COVID did (and is still doing) a lot of a lot of stuff to the economy, and one was that it knocked its rhythm off.

New York magazine recently laid it out this way:

At the beginning of the pandemic, it felt like everything essential was in short supply. Toilet paperhand sanitizerdumbbellsflour, and even baby wipes were nearly impossible to find as we all hunkered down for what we had no idea would be more than a year of quarantine. But now, as pandemic restrictions ease in the U.S., so too does our once-overwhelming inclination to hoard. If our lives are (slowly) returning, shouldn’t the availability of the things we want to buy get back to normal too?

As it turns out, no. Soaring demand from our lockdown lives and fewer workers have left suppliers strapped for major materials like lumber and aluminum — not to mention the semiconductors that power everything from our cars to our laptops. Those shortages trickle down into less-major things, too, which means that, Girl Scout cookies aside, lots of products are hard to come by. If you’re among the millions of Americans who bought a pandemic house, you may be struggling to get materials to build a new deck or repair a fence. Or maybe you’re just trying to get your hands on a can of your dog’s favorite wet food, a set of patio furniture for under $1,000, or a Playstation 5. Maybe you’ve finally decided to buy a used Subaru, if you could just locate a dealership that has one, or you went to re-up on your go-to organic cotton underwear, only to find the price has risen $2 per pair. Whatever your need, if you want something right now, you may well have to either pay a lot more to get it or find a suitable alternative.

On a more personal level, I go to the store now, and usually can find what I need — but I can’t help noticing how thinly populated the shelves seem. I keep hearing from family members about their troubles finding basic things that would not normally be hard at all to find, seeing as how we’re not actually living in the Soviet Union of circa 1980.

Anyway, as I said, I wonder what y’all are seeing…

My old shoes, when they were new. This is the morning we were about to set out in Khao Yai. The canvas things were issued to us to protect against leeches.

My old shoes, when they were new. This is the morning we were about to set out in Khao Yai. The canvas things were issued to us to protect against leeches.

 

Lynn Teague: And so it begins… redistricting South Carolina

The Op-Ed Page

newest 7.20.21

EDITOR’S NOTE: As I’ve said so many times, there is no one more important thing we could do to reform and reinvigorate our democracy than to end the scourge of partisan gerrymandering. And it’s hard to imagine any task more difficult. So, when I got an email from our friend Lynn Teague telling me the Senate was about to start work on reapportionment, I was assured to know she would be riding herd on the process, and asked her to write us a situationer. I’m deeply grateful that she agreed to do so…

By Lynn Teague
Guest Columnist

The Senate Redistricting Subcommittee will hold its first meeting to begin the process of redrawing South Carolina’s legislative district boundaries on July 20, and the House is planning its first meeting on August 3. The redistricting process, held every ten years to adjust legislative districts to changes in population, is required by the U. S. Constitution. It is among the most important political processes in our system of government, but one that the public often ignores. The impact isn’t immediately obvious without a closeup look, and a closeup look can easily leave citizens confused by technical details and jargon. The nonpartisan League of Women Voters wants to see that change. We intend to do all that we can to demystify and inform the public and encourage participation.

Lynn Teague

Lynn Teague

Why should you care? Gerrymandering is designing district boundaries so that the outcome in the November general election is a foregone conclusion. At present South Carolina is not heavily gerrymandered by party (although there are surely those who would like to change that in the upcoming process). It is, however, very noncompetitive. The map of Senate districts shows how many voters had no real choice at the polls in November 2020. Why is this? Sometimes it is because the population in an area is very homogenous and any reasonable district that is drawn will lean predictably toward one party or the other. However, too often the problem is incumbent protection. This is a game that both parties can and do play, carefully designing districts to make them easy to win the next time around. Because of this obvious temptation, the United States is the only nation that allows those with an obvious vested interest in the outcome to draw district boundaries.

The other major impact of designing very homogenous districts is that it feeds polarization. Representatives are able to remain in office by responding only to the most extreme elements of their own parties, those who participate enthusiastically in primary elections, and ignore the broader electorate. When you call or write your senator or representative and get no meaningful response, this is often the reason. He or she doesn’t have to care what you think. When you wonder why our legislators take positions that are more extreme than those of the South Carolina electorate as a whole, this is why. They are looking out for themselves in the primary election. They don’t need to be concerned about your vote in November.

What can you do? The League of Women Voters hopes that citizens across the state will participate in public hearings, write to their own representatives and senators, and urge representatives not to distort districts to protect incumbents or parties. Both Senate and House will hold public meetings across South Carolina to solicit comment on how redistricting should be done. The dates for these meetings have not been announced.

The League of Women Voters of South Carolina will be hearing from our own group of independent experts in our League advisory group, will present our own maps, will testify in public hearings, and will encourage members of the public to participate. Everyone can follow along as we present information that is needed to understand and participate on our website at www.lwvsc.org. Click on “Redistricting: People Powered Fair Maps for South Carolina.” There you can also subscribe to our blog, VotersRule2020. Follow @lwvsc on Twitter and “League of Women Voters of South Carolina” on Facebook. Our theme is #WeAreWatching. Everyone should watch along with us, and let their legislators know that they shouldn’t make the decision about who wins in November.

Lynn Teague is a retired archaeologist who works hard every day in public service. She is the legislative lobbyist for the South Carolina League of Women Voters.

Let’s try not to use up all the water, OK?

I can do without another Dust Bowl.

I can do without another Dust Bowl.

Look, I know the few folks who still work at The State — or perhaps I should say work for The State, since it’s no longer so much a place to be at — don’t spend a bunch of time thinking about the print version.

I don’t even subscribe to it myself, preferring my iPad. But I do interact through the e-edition, which as you may know presents the content through electronic versions of the actual pages of the print version. I do this because I’m an old front-page editor going back more than 40 years, so whether a story is played on the front, and how it’s played on the front, still means something to me. Even when it doesn’t mean much to the editors putting it there. (Yes, I know that’s illogical, but there it is.)

Anyway, this morning, it really struck me that in that print edition, this story by my old friend Sammy Fretwell — headlined “Water-gulping farms face tighter controls as groundwater levels drop in central SC” — was badly underplayed. An excerpt:

South Carolina’s environmental protection board voted Thursday to place controls on huge farms and industries east of Columbia that withdraw large amounts of groundwater, a measure taken in response to dwindling water levels in parts of the state.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control board’s unanimous vote will require major groundwater users in six counties, including Richland and Sumter, to tell the public about their plans to siphon water and to get permits from the agency before making withdrawals. The rules apply to anyone withdrawing 3 million gallons or more per month….

“Dwindling water levels in parts of the state” sort of grabbed me. So did “3 million gallons or more per month.” Later, Sammy uses the word “billions” in describing the overall problem. As a guy who hesitates to turn on sprinklers in the yard (I mean, won’t that make the grass grow even more?), that’s an impressive number.

But I guess, on an emotional level, what grabbed me most was this:

At least nine organizations and local governments recently urged DHEC to impose the rules to protect groundwater needed by smaller farms, industries and public water systems in the six-county area, in addition to large farms…

Hang on. I mean, this or that farmer saying to another, “I need the water more than you do” is one thing, and a thing regarding which different sides might be taken. But public water systems? As in, someone goes to turn on the tap in kitchen and nothing comes out? Whoa…

You know, if that’s what it means. I guess I should ask Sammy.

Here’s the thing: As a guy who is far, far less concerned (if at all) about our planet’s growing population than our friend Bud, I rely — as do we all — on a certain amount of large-scale modern farming.

But maybe we should, as a society, go about growing that food — and fiber, and whatever — somewhat more intelligently.

Anyway, I thought it deserved to be brought to people’s attention a bit more prominently. It’s something we should talk about. I don’t want to live in a Dust Bowl…

I don't think packing up the truck and moving West will work if the East runs out of water.

I don’t think packing up the truck and moving West will work if the East runs out of water.

Are the Cuban people moving to end dictatorship?

Map of Cuba, circa 1680.

Map of Cuba, circa 1680.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s something Bryan tried to post, but it mysteriously disappeared on him. So I’m hereby posting it for him, in appreciation for his recent efforts to keep this blog alive when I’m too tied up with stuff to do so (which I still am). I, too, have been thinking about the Caribbean, and not just because my youngest daughter lives down there and, after a too-short visit, is returning there tomorrow. I’ve been wanting to write something about Haiti. Maybe I’ll find time at some point…

Over the weekend, protests moved into the streets of various cities in Cuba.

It looks like the protests started over the chronic issue of food shortages and other essential products and services. The pandemic has only made conditions on the island country worse. The protesters also demanded vaccines to combat the pandemic, but began shifting in tone with chants of “Freedom!” and “Down with Communism!”

The New York Times has this:

Shouting “Freedom” and other anti-government slogans, hundreds of Cubans took to the streets in cities around the country on Sunday to protest food and medicine shortages, in a remarkable eruption of discontent not seen in nearly 30 years. https://t.co/BbqQPLrNiE

— The New York Times (@nytimes) July 11, 2021

Freedom and other anti-government slogans?” sort of seems an odd thought, but… whatever. If your government is ever on the other side of things from people legitimately asking for “Freedom,” you’re doing something wrong.

In any event, I certainly hope the people of Cuba are allowed to be free to choose their own form of government at some point. If this protest turns violent the current lack of medicine and food is going to exacerbate the poor conditions that already exist.

It’s not boring. It’s baseball. And it’s perfect…

still baseball

Bryan started off his excellent “summer beach movie songs” post with a dismissive aside about “debating a replacement song for the national anthem.” I thought:

If America is decadent and unlikely to recover, which of these two phenomena would be more likely either the cause, or perhaps I should say the most stark effect?

  1. We are now a country in which people can mention “debating a replacement song for the national anthem,” and not be entirely joking.
  2. We are now a country, and have for some time been a country, in which football is more popular than baseball.

Both thoughts are depressing, evidence of a great nation losing its way. Those two are enough to cause concern, without even mentioning the disaster of Trumpism. And the distressing nature of Phenomenon 2 was driven home by a couple of tweets Saturday morning…

First, this one at 9:47 a.m.:

Arghh. Here I am still looking desperately, and usually unsuccessfully, for some affordable ways of seeing some live MLB on my TV without having cable, and this guy has to remind me — gleefully, I infer — that very soon I won’t be able to turn on the blasted contraption without seeing football everywhere.

And just a few moments later, this one from my friend and former campaign comrade Ashleigh Lancaster.

Let’s concentrate on Ashleigh’s since, although it has sad elements, it is at least about baseball.

Since for some reason I was unable to embed Ashleigh’s (maybe because it was her retweet of somebody else’s), I’ll at least share my response to it:

I’m a fan of Ring Lardner, especially of his work on “You Know Me, Al,” but let’s face it: The lively ball didn’t kill baseball. Nevertheless, I respect his points about it — and it certainly helped lead to the unhealthy obsession with home runs on the part of many less-discriminating fans — and respect the debate itself as one of the things I enjoy about the game. It’s right up there with debates we can have about other abominations that have tried to destroy the game within my lifetime, such as the playoff system (we all know that in an orderly universe, the team with the most wins during the season wins the pennant, right?) and the designated hitter.

No, baseball has never been boring, and excellent pitching isn’t making it more boring. It’s not intended to be an unending stream of hits (most of them home runs, if the aforementioned less-thoughtful “fans” have their way). If it were, I wouldn’t be trying to watch it.

It’s a contest, a contest that batters are meant to lose most of the time — which makes it that much more exciting when they don’t. Of course, the best part of the excitement is watching the fantastic defensive feats of the players on the field reacting to the ball being put into play. (Something that you miss out on entirely when the ball is hit out of the park, by the way. Everybody just stands there. Now that’s boring…)

The pitchers are constantly trying to keep the guys from hitting, and the batters are all constantly trying to overcome the pitchers’ and catchers’ craftsmanship. And from time to time, everything explodes into action involving everyone else. But not too often. Just enough.

And it’s not boring. It’s perfect…

You_know_me_al_comic_strip

What do you think of watching fireworks?

fireworks

I said I wouldn’t have time to post today (again), but I thought I’d just put up a quick post before the subject is too old.

I spoke briefly with my brother on Sunday, and he told me that he was at Lake Hartwell with his family to watch fireworks (he lives in Greenville, and that is apparently somewhere Greenville people go). My reaction was something to the effect of “Better you than me,” and he said it wasn’t his idea; he had just gone along with the inevitable, as dads often do. This led to a brief discussion in which we found we were both, at our now-advanced ages, quite unenchanted by such spectacles.

As I said to him, such displays have little attraction to me as a spectator activity. I enjoyed blowing stuff up as a kid. I can even recall enjoying writing my name in the air with sparklers, as tame as those are.

Remember this picture of our late friend Burl taking pride in one of his early models? It caused me to respond thusly back when I first saw it:

I’m wondering — is that behind your house in Foster Village? I ask because the background looks a lot like the view from my backyard when we lived in that subdivision. We had this unbelievable view of both Pearl Harbor and the Waianae range in the background. (The lots were terraced so that our backyard lawn was higher than the roof of the house behind us, making for an amazing panorama of southwestern Oahu.)

In fact, I’m flashing on a memory here. Unlike Burl, I wasn’t a master builder of models. I didn’t paint the pilot or other small details. I’d put on the decals, of course, but beyond that my finishing touches didn’t extend beyond maybe heating the point of a pin and using it to melt machine-gun holes in the wings and fuselage.

I definitely didn’t bother with details on the little model of a V1 buzz bomb that I test-flew in that backyard in Foster Village. I built it around a firecracker, wedged into the fuselage tightly by wrapping toilet paper around it, and threaded the fuse out through a hole before final gluing. (The V1, a fairly featureless rocket, was way too boring to look at, and there were no more than five or six pieces in the kit — the only thing that made it worth building was to blow it up.)

Then I took it out there, lit the fuse, and threw it. It worked — green plastic blasted everywhere. But it was over so quick, it didn’t seem worth the time it took to build the model, even as simple as it was. So that’s the last time I did that…

Anyway, that sort of thing was cool — for a kid. But the idea of watching someone else’s fireworks go off — especially if I had to fight traffic or get into a crowd to watch it… well, that’s only slightly more enticing than watching someone else play golf. Playing golf is fine. Watching someone else do it is rather mind-numbing.

I did, a few years back, enjoy watching the fireworks over the center of London on New Year’s Eve. But that’s because I was miles away, standing atop Primrose Hill in a park, amid a fairly chill (and not overly large) group of Londoners who had walked there for the same purpose. The fun then was less in the distant fireworks, and more in the novelty of the situation — walking through London in the middle of the night, seeing the other folks arriving from various directions pushing prams and such, and watching the Brits launch those quiet UFOs I wrote about. I had never seen those before. It was all quite pleasant.

But the rest of the time, I find fireworks fairly tiresome — the neighbors setting them off as soon as the sun goes down at certain times of the year (which always makes me glad I no longer have a dog and am forced by such thoughtlessness to try to calm the poor creature down), strangers doing them on the beach when I’m trying to have a nice evening walk there, and so forth. And the idea of driving out of town to watch other people set them off is pretty unthinkable. Although, of course, we do things for kids and grandkids.

So I’m just wondering: Do you like these things? Why? Or why not, for that matter. Your reasons may differ from mine…

The terrible image I took of fireworks over London on my Blackberry, because that's what I was carrying back on the evening of Dec. 31, 2010...

The terrible image I took of fireworks over London on my Blackberry, because that’s what I was carrying back on the evening of Dec. 31, 2010…

DeMarco: What Gwen Berry does for America

The Op-Ed Page

This is a view of the giant American flag in the parking lot of Shuler’s BBQ.

This is a view of the giant American flag in the parking lot of Shuler’s BBQ.

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Many people are rightly offended by hammer-thrower Gwen Berry’s disrespect of the American flag after her third-place finish in the U.S. Olympic Trials on June 26. The response from certain sectors was swift and predictable. Ted Cruz castigated Berry on Twitter, asking “Why does the Left hate America?” You’re shocked, I know.

But in addition to flame-throwing politicians, many fair-minded Americans expressed legitimate displeasure. In addition to scorning the flag, Berry was criticized for self-aggrandizement and for failure to understand her role as a member of the U.S. Olympic team and as an ambassador to the world.

I think all those criticisms are fair. It is reasonable to hold the flag as sacred and to be protective of what it represents to you and your fellow citizens. Many people see disrespect and desecration of the flag as unforgiveable sins. This is the same flag, they argue, that led soldiers into battle and represents the freedom for which so many have died.

I have a less rigid view of the flag, and one that has changed over the last decade or so. For me, the flag represents America, both its great strengths and its deep flaws. When I look at the flag I see both sides. One side represents our ideals, our desire to be Reagan’s “shining city on a hill.” On the other side are the many American mistakes and cruelties.

This two-sided view came naturally with the Confederate flag. From the moment I was old enough to be able to comprehend the realities of the Civil War, seeing that flag unsettled me. The bumper sticker defense of proponents was “Heritage not Hate.” But for me it was always “Heritage and Hate.” I understood what Confederate flag advocates were seeing on the front side of the flag – the bravery of Southerners who refused to capitulate to what they viewed as a tyrannical federal government. But I, along with many others, saw on the back side of the flag the horrors of slavery.

In contrast to my understanding of the Confederate flag, my current faceted view of the American flag was not immediate. For me and my family, America has been the land of opportunity promised by Lady Liberty, who greeted my paternal grandfather when he immigrated from Sicily. The flag, for most of my life, has been a symbol of unalloyed pride and devotion. Massive American flags that some businesses fly never fail to inspire (the closest one to me is in front of Shuler’s BBQ near Latta (worth the trip!)).

But over the past decade, I’ve become gradually aware that my wholesome view of Old Glory was not universally held. My first epiphany around my unexamined patriotism came with the Pledge of Allegiance. After repeating it for years, I finally thought about the last line from the perspective of someone whose family had not had the opportunities that my parents and grandparents did. If my ancestors had been born with exactly the same intellect and skills, but been Southern blacks, my view of America would be less sanguine, and “liberty and justice for all” might induce anger for America’s unfulfilled promises rather than pride. When I had that small but significant revelation, I had to do some soul-searching about my lazy self-satisfaction. Did it change my love for my country? Not one bit. But it has changed my understanding of what America has meant to people who don’t look like me.

Speaking of people who don’t look like me, let’s return to Gwen Berry. Berry is a powerful woman who is taller, stronger, and braver than I. She is an exhibitionist who wears lipstick like war paint. I admire her athletic ability as I do that of DeAnna Price and Brooke Andersen (who finished first and second in the competition, respectively). I think Berry made an impulsive and self-destructive decision to turn her back on the flag. It was the wrong time and place. What bothers me most is that it was likely ineffective. Indeed, it may have hurt her cause more than it helped. But part of me is glad she did it. Here are my reasons:

First, her actions say to me that she believes in America’s capacity for change and improvement. You don’t take a stand like she did for a lost cause. But the pace of change in America is slow, and she is impatient. “America is the greatest country in the world,” she said. “We are capable of fixing these issues. I am tired of talking about them. I won’t do it anymore.” What do you do when you are tired of talking? You act.

Second, she made a sacrifice to promote her beliefs about America. She is not unique in this regard. America’s men and women in uniform do this daily. But few of us act on our beliefs in ways that put our reputation and careers at risk. Berry states her motivation was “to represent my communities and my people, and those that have died at the hands of police brutality, those that have died to this systemic racism.”

Third, the greatness of America lies not in our reverence for the flag, but our reverence for the freedom it represents. Some people are incensed by protesters who burn the American flag. And my first thought when I see images of the flag on fire is “Don’t do that. It’s disrespectful and not likely to help your cause.” But my second thought is, “I’m glad I live in country where that kind repulsive expression is allowed.” And to know if America is truly still that country, we must regularly be put to the test.

So I thank Berry for testing us, and for America once again passing the test. No one is calling for her to be jailed, although some have suggested, with some merit, that she be banned from the Olympic team. My hope for Berry is that she will represent America well in Tokyo. If she makes the medal stand, I would advise her not to use it as a protest venue. The name recognition she has gained through her gesture at home will allow her to promote anti-racism in more effective ways.

Dr. DeMarco is a physician who lives in Marion, and a long-time reader of this blog.

Just a quick something to talk about, if you’re interested…

The rest of my week is pretty packed, but since I posted this on Twitter earlier, I’ll post it here, in case anyone is interested in discussing. It occurs to me this is a quick-and-dirty way to set up a discussion about something in the news today. If it works, I’ll do this more often. If not, you’ll have to wait until I actually have time to comment on something:

DeMarco: Bishops move to sever the tie that binds

The Op-Ed Page

eucharist-1591663_1280

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

You would think that American Christians, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, would be rejoicing that there was a faithful occupant of the White House.

Although white evangelicals overwhelmingly supported Biden’s predecessor and cheered many of his policies, Trump rarely attended church and seemed unfamiliar with the Bible (once referring, during a campaign speech at Liberty University, to the book Second Corinthians as “Two Corinthians” a mistake that any child with a year of Sunday school would avoid).

Most Christians believe that corporate worship is essential to a complete and thriving relationship with their Creator. Biden’s desire to join weekly with other Catholics and remember who they are and to whom they owe their most important allegiance should be reassuring to those of every faith and no faith. However, some of the bishops are disquieted by the highly publicized gap between Biden’s abortion stance and Catholic teaching (he personally opposes abortion but supports abortion rights policy). At an assembly of the bishops last week, there was enough concern that three-quarters of them approved drafting a document examining the “meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the church.” Some of the bishops clearly have Biden in mind with their vote, including Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver, who has said unequivocally that Biden “should not receive Holy Communion” for his abortion stance.

Catholics are obligated to attend Mass weekly and expected to take Communion. Although I married into the Methodist church, I was raised as a Catholic and understand the centrality of Communion to Catholics, who believe that the elements actually become the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament.

Refusing Communion to any Christian who comes to a house of worship is an affront. The bishops’ desire to deny Biden the Eucharist put me in mind of an experience I had over two decades ago while I was visiting with a Catholic family member. During the visit, our families went to Mass together. Although I am no longer Catholic and technically should not partake, I always accept Communion when it is offered. Methodists have an open table. The invitation is to “all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin, and seek to live in peace with one another.” So, no matter who is offering Communion, I feel invited.

When I rose from the pew, my children, who were still in elementary school, naturally followed. I knew this might be a problem since this was a large church in which one stood before the Eucharistic minister, received the wafer in cupped hands, and the took a sip of wine from a common chalice. In our home church, we kneel at the altar rail and take juice in tiny individual cups. I didn’t have time to give them any instructions except, “Watch me.” I chose one of the side aisles thinking that a modestly dressed nun might be less imposing to them than a tall, portly priest arrayed king-like in his vestments. They were both nervous and the nun deduced by their hesitation that they had not received the strict instruction Catholic children get when they prepare for their first Communion. Thankfully, she did not withhold the elements from them, but she gave me a look of displeasure I will never forget.

I understand the bind that faith leaders are in. If there is no dogma, then they worry “What do we stand for?” and “How do we distinguish ourselves from the secular world?” And I also understand the moral urgency that the bishops feel toward abortion. Lives hang in the balance. I think their denunciation of abortion is defensible, as is Biden’s position.

Unfortunately, and Brad can disagree with me here, the Catholic Church is expert at inducing guilt. The majority of bishops feel so strongly about Biden’s positions on abortion and same-sex marriage that they feel a public shaming is in order. I saw both the positives and the negatives of the church’s robust adherence to dogma in my parents, whose educations through high school were entirely in Catholic schools. They both are highly motivated, disciplined, honest and smart. The nuns who taught them expected, even demanded, that they excel. But there was a downside. Eventually the weight of those rigid expectations and a perceived dearth of compassion drove them, as adults, to the Episcopal church (the Catholic teachings barring women from the priesthood or from using birth control also played a major role).

I can see nothing to be gained by the bishops denying Biden Communion. It will satisfy no one but a group of authoritarian Catholics. Biden is the kind of faithful man that any church should want. There are very few Catholics (or adherents of any faith, for that matter) who accept every one of their church’s precepts. For example, more than half of Catholics surveyed by the Pew Research Center in 2019 agree with Joe and support abortion in all or most cases.

And what disastrous evangelism. At a time when U.S. Catholic affiliation is dropping (along with most other denominations) the bishops’ desire to rebuke Biden will only serve to repel potential converts and may push some teetering Catholics out of the flock.

The Catholic faith needs some good news. It will take decades for the reverberations of the sex abuse scandal to dampen. Still, as Brad reminds us, Catholicism is the oldest and largest (by far) of the Christian denominations. It offers its followers a connection through time and space that is rivalled only by Islam. Even though I’m no longer Catholic, I experienced that connection one morning in February 2020 in Africa. I travelled there for a two-week mission in a hospital in Mbeya, Tanzania, with the USC School of Medicine. The leader of the trip was a Catholic physician who took me to an early morning Mass at Saint Anthony of Padua Cathedral. It was one of the most moving worship services I have ever experienced. A group of nuns chanted and sang accompanied by shakers and drums giving the service a unique energy and rhythm. Even though I understood almost nothing except “Yesu Kristo” and “Mungu” (“Jesus Christ” and “God” in Swahili) I felt the connection that Brad has described.

The bishops would do better focusing on our commonalties as human beings and what binds us rather than trying to humiliate the President.

Dr. DeMarco is a physician who lives in Marion, and a long-time reader of this blog.

The churc h in Mbeya, Tanzania, where Paul attended Mass in 2020.

The churc h in Mbeya, Tanzania, where Paul attended Mass in 2020.

Your Virtual Front Page for Thursday, June 17, 2021

NATO HQ

Haven’t had one of these in awhile. But there’s been a lot going on. Here’s some of it:

  1. Affordable Care Act survives third Supreme Court challenge — Remember how so many people were worrying about this before the election, during the hearings for Amy Coney Barrett (while I was cringing over the fact we were having those hearings right then, because I was worried they would hurt Joe’s chances)? Well, they needn’t have worried. It was 7-2. I guess I needn’t have worried so much about the other thing, either.
  2. Biden, Putin hold ‘positive’ summit but divisions remain — This is getting a little old, but makes the page anyway because there wasn’t a page yesterday. Probably the best take I’ve seen on this so far is from E.J. Dionne, who wrote, “Biden to Putin: Stability, sure. But democracy matters.” That said, I should mention something else E.J. refers to: The Putin meeting was a sideshow, unavoidable in light of the last four years of madness. But the important thing that happened this week was the fervent embrace of Biden’s America by Europe. Yes, America is back.
  3. House votes to repeal 2002 authorization for military force — In other news, maybe there’ll be a vote coming up to repeal the Alien and Sedition Acts. Bet you didn’t know we still had those, did you? I’m not sure what the force authorization vote is about, other than people who weren’t there to make a difficult decision trying to distance themselves from Bush’s moves on Iraq, which are now unpopular on both the left and the “America First” right (which I suppose is why it was bipartisan enough that Nancy Mace voted for it). For the record, I would have been against the A&S Acts at the time, but I still probably would have voted for Adams in 1800.
  4. Former SC telecom exec Lightsey to succeed Hitt — This is the closest thing I could find to actual news on the local front. It makes it because Bobby, whom I first knew 30-something years ago in a radically different context, has now had this job for a decade.
  5. Supreme Court unanimously rules for Catholic group in Philadelphia dispute — They’ve been busy today, haven’t they?
  6. Biden is set to sign a law making Juneteenth a federal holiday — This is kind of old, too, but I guess Joe signing it today will make it fresher. And a lot of people are really happy about it, and good for them. Of course, I continue to think it an odd day to celebrate. Were it up to me, we’d be talking about Dec. 6, the day on which the 13th Amendment was ratified in 1865. That’s when slavery ended, not on a day when, in one out-of-the-way place, people first heard about the Emancipation Proclamation from two years earlier, which of course did not end slavery. But I’m kind of a pedant, right?
She's a pretty nice girl, isn't she?

She’s a pretty nice girl, isn’t she?

 

 

DeMarco: When Did You Learn About the Tulsa Race Massacre?

The Op-Ed Page

Tulsa, Oklahoma burns during the race massacre of 1921.

Tulsa, Oklahoma burns during the race massacre of 1921.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was supposed to run a couple of weeks ago, at the time of the anniversary of what happened in Tulsa, but it didn’t, and it’s entirely my fault. As y’all know, I’ve had a lot going on lately, day and night, and so certain routine activities — such as blogging, and checking my personal email — have fallen by the wayside. Well, yesterday, I managed to put up a post, and I’m getting close to catching up on email (maybe an hour or two of intense monotony left to do, whenever I can find an hour or two). Anyway, I still think we can have a useful conversation on this subject, so with my sincere apologies to Paul, I pass on his column, “When Did You Learn About the Tulsa Race Massacre?”

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

I am astonished and embarrassed that I learned about it so late in life. It’s particularly galling because the black freedom struggle is something I’m interested in and have read about. The March on Washington occurred the year of my birth, and I have always felt a connection to the Civil Rights Movement. The PBS documentary series Eyes on the Prize brought the movement to life for me and propelled me to read the first volume of Taylor Branch’s trilogy Parting the Waters: America in the King Years. My interest in the subject has recently been rekindled and I have resumed my reading about it, focusing on South Carolina’s role in the movement. I just finished Claudia Smith Brinson’s Stories of Struggle: The Clash over Civil Rights in South Carolina which tells of some of the unsung heroes and moments in our state.

I have no memory of hearing about the massacre until earlier this year while I was listening to the podcast Teaching Hard History, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. I learned that the massacre was a brutal decimation of the wealthiest black community in America by an organized white mob. Estimates vary but dozens to hundreds were killed and more than a thousand black homes and hundreds of black businesses were destroyed. After two days of annihilation, approximately a 35-block area had been burned to the ground. No one was ever prosecuted. The 100th anniversary of the massacre coincides with Memorial Day.

The reclamation of this suppressed history is part of the George Floyd effect. Many whites, myself included, had been lulled into believing that America was becoming a post-racial society. But over the past decade there has been a growing sense of incompletion, of too much left undone. This unease began to disturb the national conscience in 2013 with the death of Trayvon Martin, was inflamed by the election of Donald Trump, and reached a tipping point with Floyd’s death. Each name that made national headlines (Garner, Brown, Rice, Scott, Castille, Taylor, etc.) was a message: We are nowhere near finished with racial reconciliation in the U.S.

I’m glad that this part of history is finally being told. The title of the podcast Teaching Hard History is apt. We know the easy, comfortable parts. If you’re a Christian, you will recognize a parallel with our religious education. The story of Tulsa has been treated by whites in a way similar to the way Christians have treated the hard sayings of Jesus. All of us have our favorite comforting verses. But some of what Jesus spoke to his followers was searing. One of the most demanding of Jesus’ prescriptions is found in the gospel of Mark. When a rich young ruler asks Jesus what he must do to have eternal life, Jesus replies, “One thing you lack: Go and sell all you possess and give it to the poor.” Only courageous preachers use this as a sermon text.

Mixed with my gratitude that these neglected stories are finally being told is a disappointment that I have been deliberately miseducated. In contrast to my ignorance of Tulsa, I have retained the name of Denmark Vesey, a free black man who planned a slave revolt in Charleston in 1822. The plot was discovered and he and about thirty of his followers were executed. I remember being taught several times about this. How could I know the name of a man who killed no one but simply scared the bejesus out of white Southerners and not know about Tulsa?

Reasonable people can disagree about what history is essential to teach our children. However, I would submit that not teaching me about the Tulsa massacre was a deliberate omission by a white society that didn’t want to spoil the narrative of its benignity and wholesomeness. In that same vein, in the late seventies when I took South Carolina history in middle school, I was taught the Lost Cause narrative, the crux of which is that the Civil War (usually referred to as “The War Between the States” and sometimes as “The War of Northern Aggression” in my classroom) was about states’ rights, not slavery. Even at that tender age, I remember being confused. Wasn’t the right that all the fighting was about the right to own slaves? I remember arguing this point after class with a friend whose family had lived for generations in the Charleston area. We did not reach consensus.

Some whites are not interested in any reappraisal of our history. Exposing our middle and high school students to this and other episodes of ruthless racially-motivated violence takes some of the shine off the narrative that we have always been the good guys. Conservative politicians and news outlets recognize whites’ fear of this long-overdue reexamination and their desire to change the subject. This desire is the motivation behind the focus on critical race theory (CRT). I suspect that most people who oppose CRT have a very shallow understanding of it. Since they can’t say they are against studying the truth of our racial past, they beat up on the straw man of CRT, which they portray as a shadowy Marxist plot to convince our children to hate America.

Some states, including Oklahoma, have banned CRT and others are trying (Note to legislators: the best way to stoke interest in a subject among young people is to ban it). But most of those who recognize the omissions in the history we teach have no interest in CRT. All we want is for the full, unvarnished story to be told. Hearing the truth of Tulsa and other history like it will be a painful. But it will also set us free.

Dr. DeMarco is a physician who lives in Marion, and a long-time reader of this blog.

The burned-out Greenwood District after the Tulsa Race Massacre.

The burned-out Greenwood District after the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Kent Babb, Coach Fink and the Karr Cougars

We were the Karr Cougars!

We were the Karr Cougars!

Any of y’all remember Kent Babb, who used to cover sports at The State? He was very good at it. Y’all know I don’t really follow sports, but I used to read his stuff whenever I noticed the byline, because it was that good.

Anyway, he’s at The Washington Post now, and you may be interested in reading a piece he wrote recently about youth football culture up the road in Rock Hill. The news peg was the horrific Phillip Adams story, but Kent went deep into the culture Adams grew up in, one in which football is everything, and when it’s over, young guys tend to get lost.

That’s the part of the post that might interest some of y’all. The rest just interests me, most likely.

Apparently, Kent made a similar, even deeper dive into prep football in a whole other place, and has written a book about it, as I discovered recently on Facebook:

Throughout the 2019 season, I embedded with the Edna Karr High School football team in the West Bank of New Orleans. It’s a story about a championship program and how its head coach, Brice Brown, is a football savant who just sees the moving parts of a complex game in his mind.
But more than that, it’s about how Brown teaches life and survival skills to a group of at-risk kids in a city besieged by gun violence. This is a city where, in 2016, an 18- or 19-year-old Black male was 56 times more likely to die by gunshot than the national average. It’s a place that has big dreams but not much hope. The main player character, a soft-spoken linebacker named Joe, desperately wants to get to college. But “college” is something he can barely imagine; he has only seen references to it in movies. Joe’s mother is in prison, and Joe used to be her lookout, begging her to come inside at 3 a.m. If not for football, it’s very possible Joe wouldn’t have reached his 18th birthday….

Well, that dug up some memories for me. I commented:

Wow, Kent! I attended Edna Karr when it was a junior high, 1965-67. I didn’t even know it was a high school. Did anyone in the book happen to mention the legendary Olaf Fink? He was my PE coach in 8th grade, and he was also a state senator…

I guess it was the fact that this was about sports that made me think of Coach Fink, rather than other educators who made an impression on me back then. Kent replied:

Man, I didn’t know that. I don’t remember Olaf Fink’s name coming up, but Karr and the West Bank have undergone many dramatic changes since Katrina. It’s not a magnet school anymore; it’s a citywide charter that became a huge melting pot in 2006 because it was among the only schools in New Orleans that sustained minor or zero damage.

I saw that this morning, and wrote back:

“Since Katrina” doesn’t mean that much to me, since I went there from 1965-67. 🙂 According to Wikipedia, it was still a junior high until 1990. And when you look it up now, it’s apparently in a completely different location, near the river. Confusing. Wikipedia shows it in the old location. Better yet, Coach Fink is the one individual person mentioned in connection with the school. Famous in his day, but I’m not surprised people don’t remember him now. I learned from my brief research that he died in 1973.

Wow, Coach Fink. My old buddy. I was the scrawniest kid in his P.E. class. I didn’t get my growth until a year or two later (and was still super-skinny after getting my height). Coach Fink took notice of this one day when we were doing gymnastics and learning to tumble. He had this safety device that consisted of an adjustable leather belt with ropes attached to both sides. When we tried to do walkovers or whatever, we’d wear the belt while two other guys held the ropes to hold us up and keep us from breaking our necks.

Problem was, the tightest, skinniest holes on the belt left it still too loose to hold me. I reported this, and Coach scoffed, saying that was impossible. So I showed him it was possible, and he was impressed. From then on, I had a new name. Coach Fink called me “Sego,” which I suppose means nothing to younger people, but everyone got it back then. Sometimes he said “Metrecal,” but eventually settled on “Sego,” and that stuck.

From then on, I was sort of Coach Fink’s pet. He decided to make me a leader in the class. He deputized me to be in charge of various things. At the start of class, when we had just gotten dressed out and before he and the other coaches went back into the coaches’ office to smoke and watch game films and whatever else coaches did, he’d say, “Sego, run ’em through calisthenics!” And I’d tell the guys to line up — and they would, perhaps amused at the little guy being in charge but totally accepting that Coach had delegated his authority to me — and I’d stand in front of them and lead them through jumping jacks and such before we went out and played ball or whatever. Like the other boys, I just accepted this as my role; I don’t remember questioning it. After all, Coach had named me “Sego,” and that’s who I was.

Looking back, I suppose that experience helped boost my self-confidence. So you can blame him! But seriously, my ego was already pretty big in the academic classes, and now I had this added thing. Which was nice, for a kid who got picked last for games on account of being the little guy and having unremarkable (at best) athletic skills for overcoming that. (No one ever said admiringly of me, “Yeah, Sego’s little, but he’s an amazing playmaker at point guard!”)

Coach Fink. The first time any of us heard the name, we’d laugh, because this was at the height of the Rat Fink craze. (Let’s hear it for Ed “Big Daddy” Roth!) That his first name was “Olaf” only added to the effect. But that was when we’d heard of him but not yet met him. He was an imposing figure, and his natural authority loomed over that of the other coaches. Also, we heard that he was a “state senator.” I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but it sounded important, which seemed fitting.

Anyway, Kent and I wrote back and forth a bit more about Karr Junior High (unfortunately, I was unable to help him on the origin of the name), but that part of the conversation kicked my memory into gear, and I thought I’d share.

Sorry I haven’t posted lately. Things have been crazy. I’ll try to get back to it soon…

Open Thread for LATE Wednesday, June 2, 2021

We got the deck job done on Saturday!

We got the deck job done on Saturday! Don’t mind the scraps of wood lying about.

Y’all, I started doing this yesterday, but stuff came up and I didn’t finish. Anyway, I’ll change the date in the headline and try again:

  1. Our top story tonight… — Imagine Garrett Morris shouting that. (I really appreciate his News for the Hard of Hearing, now that I’m, you know, that way.) Remember the project I was working on, on my deck, when I cut up my hand? Well, the hand is pretty close to 100 percent now, and we got it done over the weekend! Staining will be completed once it’s weathered a bit.
  2. Wide-Ranging Israel Coalition Reaches Deal to Form Government — Buh-bye, Bibi! Well, it’s about time, don’t ya think?
  3. Sri Lanka Faces An Environmental Disaster As A Ship Full Of Chemicals Starts Sinking — This is terrible, and I’m concerned, but as usual, I’m always befuddled. As usual, I have to go to Google Earth to remind myself where Sri Lanka is. I always go, “Sounds like East Asia, but isn’t it closer to Africa?” Which is kind of right. It’s that chunk that broke off of India. Now that I’ve got that sorted, I can be properly concerned for the folks who live there. And the environment, too, of course. (Yeah, I know: What kind of idiot can’t remember where Sri Lanka is? Yeah. I feel that way about those who don’t know where Ecuador is.)
  4. Mike Krzyzewski made college basketball history by never making excuses — For those who think we don’t have enough sports here. Just a nice piece about a guy who did a good job…
  5. China Three-Child Policy Aims to Rejuvenate Aging Population — I imagine this will be kind of a blow to Bud — even China is seeing the likely economic problems that result from a low birth rate. This was the lede story in The Wall Street Journal yesterday morning.

News I can do without

Oh, be quiet, Kitty. Jeff Bezos owns you now...

Oh, be quiet, Kitty. Jeff Bezos owns you now…

Earlier today I said that at some point, I’m going to write a post about how tired I’ve been getting lately of reading and hearing the news of the day, and I might just stop at some point, because I’m sick of hearing the same unpleasant stuff over and over.

This is not that post. I don’t have time now to write that post. But as a tiny example of what I’m talking about…

Right after I wrote that, I went for a walk around the neighborhood. And I started out by listening to the last half-hour news summary on NPR. The stories were:

  1. Mass shooting with multiple fatalities in San Jose. I definitely don’t ever want to hear about one of THOSE again. Especially since I know we’re not going to do anything about it. (And no, that’s not a pitch for gun control, because as you know, I’m pretty pessimistic that we could ever pass any gun control that would actually deal with the problem. But I’d sure like to be offered some hope.)
  2. Secstate Blinken in Jordan. OK, I do want a summary about that. But I didn’t need the long digression about how Hamas doesn’t want aid from anybody because they don’t need it because Iran keeps giving them all the money they need as long as they keep firing missiles at Israel and getting them to strike back.
  3. Amazon buys MGM. Mildly interesting, but you notice how all our major economic news lately is about people buying and selling entertainment content? Does this bode well? I enjoy my movies, but maybe we should start shifting back to making useful things…
  4. Where COVID came from. I forget what the upshot was, but I think it was probably like the other gazillion stories I’ve read and heard, which said, “We don’t know.” In fact, I’d be perfectly happy for you to not mention the subject again until you DO know. At least, thank God, we didn’t have to listen to a discussion of the President of the United States saying “Jina” caused the “Kung Flu.”
  5. There was some sort of plot to pay bloggers in France to pass on lies sowing doubt about vaccines. Something was mentioned about Russian involvement. Not that I want the Russians to go back to putting nukes in Cuba and shooting people trying to cross the Berlin Wall, but at least back then they weren’t perpetually insulting everyone’s intelligence.
  6. The Dow was up. OK, nice. But talk about monotonous. One day it goes up. Another day it goes down. It seldom does anything interesting, and if it did, it probably wouldn’t be good.

After that summary, I switched to a Kara Swisher podcast that promised to be interesting, but it wasn’t.

So I switched to Pandora. I do that a lot lately.

So what is this? Ennui? I’m just getting kind of… jaded from this stuff. Was it always this tiresome and repetitive, or is it me?…