Confederate Memorial Day: Opinion as news

It took some work, but the Charleston Post and Courier was able to find someone to agree with its assertion that Confederate Memorial Day shouldn’t be a state holiday.

What else can one take away from the article the paper ran today – on Confederate Memorial Day – in which it found just a single critic to say the state holiday is a “waste of public money.”

Confederate Memorial Day is one of 13 paid holidays for the state’s 60,000-plus employees.

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Can’t get enough inanity from your PC?

For those of you who want to peruse claptrap with just a bit more ease, the Sunlit Uplands blog is now apparently available to folks with Amazon Kindles.

At least, that’s what Sunlit is breathlessly reporting:

Sunlit Uplands is now one of a select number of blogs available to readers using the amazing, new Amazon Kindle!

The revolutionary reading device is Amazon’s #1 bestselling item for two years running. It’s also the most-wished-for, most-gifted, and has the most 5-star reviews of any product on Amazon.  
Wow, that second paragraph sounds just a lot like what’s already been written about the Kindle, such as here or here or, on Amazon’s site itself, here.
 

Oily birds, dead workers and perspective

The Coyote Blog comes up with a sobering thought on the BP oil spill in the gulf:

I was thinking today, what must the families of the 11 people killed on the Deepwater Horizon be thinking?  Their losses are never mentioned in any news reports I see. It’s all about getting oil on the ducks.

Sure, I am pissed off about the enormous damage to the Gulf Coast as well. But I got to thinking, were I the engineer that made the wrong risk/safety decisions here, what would I feel most guilty about? I was put in that position for years in a refinery, constantly asked, “is this safe” or “can we keep running” or “do we need to shut down” or “is that vibration a problem?” These are difficult, because in the real-world of engineering, things are not ever perfectly safe. But never-the-less, if I had made the wrong call here, I think I would be feeling a lot worse about the 11 dead people than a number of dead fish and birds. Perhaps my priorities are out of whack with the times.

Queer notions abound at Sunlit Uplands

In case you missed it, Daniel Cassidy of the blog Sunlit Uplands has been busy patting himself on the back over the past couple days for having uncovered the identity of the author of a competing blog, Waldo Lydecker’s Journal.

Mr. Cassidy, it would seem, finally had had enough of Waldo calling him to task for numerous stories from spurious sources, in addition to a multitude of mindless rants against the president, including an ongoing obsession that Barack Obama may or may not have been born outside the United States.

Hence, we have this self-aggrandizing introduction: “Here at Sunlit Uplands we have been greatly encouraged by our steadily growing number of readers; by the good friends all over the world that we have made through blogging; and by our Number 1 ranking in the BlogNetNews ‘Weekly Influence Index.’ But of all the gratifying traffic stats and metrics we have looked at these past several years, the surest, most reliable indicator that we are on the right track, fighting the noble fight, and having a positive influence for good, has been the daily calumny and vitriol directed our way by South Carolina’s darkest, nastiest, most prolific, Christophobic, homosexualist, hate blog known as Waldo Lydecker’s Journal.”

Mr. Cassidy goes on to write that “Since Waldo is publishing as many as forty venomous posts per day, we believe it is time to shine some sunlight into the darkest corner of South Carolina’s blogosphere. Those who read his many angry, hateful posts deserve to know through whom all the spiteful rage flows. And now, at long last, we can reveal to you the identity of the devil’s own blogger.”

It’s not enough to identify Waldo, though. Mr. Cassidy lays out in full detail all his foe’s failings, including the fact that he’s no longer a practicing attorney, and puts the blame on the fact that Waldo is gay.

“Lindsay Taylor Thompson, posing as Waldo Lydecker, is a living witness to the death and destruction implied by the lifestyle he promotes,” Mr. Cassidy writes in his usual smarmy self-righteous style. “It is sad, perhaps tragic, that someone possessing so many gifts has used them merely for his own destruction, and for the attempted destruction of others.”

Do I agree with everything Waldo writes? No, not by a long shot. But he’s articulate, well read and calls it like he sees it. Mr. Cassidy, meanwhile, seems more interested in resurrecting the old White Citizens’ Council.

Interestingly, in Mr. Cassidy’s piece he not only acknowledges the nickname Waldo uses when he refers to the Sunlit Uplands’ author – “Savonarola” – he apparently takes pride in it.

From his post: “In (Waldo’s) ignorance, he has dubbed your editor “Savonarola,” an appellation we humbly and happily accept. Regardless of what Hollywood and pulp fiction novelists may have to say, that great religious and political reformer spoke truth to the highest earthly and religious powers, spoke of God’s love and law in the midst of moral corruption and dissolution, was martyred for defending the Truth, and is being promoted for canonization by many in the Dominican Order. “

Being somewhat familiar with Girolamo Savonarola’s reputation, I found it curious that Mr. Cassidy would so willing embrace the anti-Renaissance monk. So I posted a message to his story that included the following background on the Italian Dominican, straight from Wikipedia:

“After Charles VIII of France invaded Florence in 1494, the ruling Medici were overthrown and Savonarola emerged as the new leader of the city, combining in himself the role of secular leader and priest. He set up a republic in Florence. Characterizing it as a ‘Christian and religious Republic,’ one of its first acts was to make sodomy, previously punishable by fine, into a capital offence. Homosexuality had previously been tolerated in the city, and many homosexuals from the elite now chose to leave Florence. His chief enemies were the Duke of Milan and Pope Alexander VI, who issued numerous restraints against him, all of which were ignored.

“In 1497, he and his followers carried out the Bonfire of the Vanities. They sent boys from door to door collecting items associated with moral laxity: mirrors, cosmetics, lewd pictures, pagan books, immoral sculptures (which he wanted to be transformed into statues of the saints and modest depictions of biblical scenes), gaming tables, chess pieces, lutes and other musical instruments, fine dresses, women’s hats, and the works of immoral and ancient poets, and burnt them all in a large pile in the Piazza della Signoria of Florence. Many fine Florentine Renaissance artworks were lost in Savonarola’s notorious bonfires — including paintings by Sandro Botticelli, which he is alleged to have thrown into the fires himself.”

I added that if Mr. Cassidy wanted to align himself with a book-burning, anti-culture zealot who favored putting homosexuals to death, so be it.

Of course, being the open-minded blogger that he is, Mr. Cassidy opted not to post my comment. However, he did take time to write the following comment on this blog:

Mr. Dietrich –

Your recent comments illuminate for me why your SCPC board members are quitting in disgust.  First we learn that you have no problem with the President of the United States dictating the visitation policies for private institutions, and now we learn that “research” is based on Wikipedia entries.  If you are the face of modern journalism, it is small wonder that it is dying, and that your “Nerve” blog has, at best, 1/2 the traffic that mine has and 1/5 the number of sites linking in.

A bit of explanation: Mr. Cassidy, that paragon of research, has fallen for the canard that several members of the S.C. Policy Council (my employer) have quit. Actually, to date not a single member has quit, resigned or left the board, and none have indicated any desire to do so.

The second line refers to a story posted on Sunlit Uplands last month that detailed President Obama asking the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a rule that would prevent hospitals from denying visitation privileges to gay and lesbian partners. To which I commented: “I gather from the fact that you choose to post this story that you don’t feel gays or lesbians should be allowed to visit their partners when they’ve been hospitalized. I fail to see what possible problem anyone could have with someone being allowed to offer solace to a loved one who’s in the hospital. Perhaps you could enlighten me as to what I’m overlooking?”

Cassidy replied with: “I don’t see a problem with anyone, visiting anyone in a hospital, Cotton Boll. But I do object to the President of the United States ‘ordering’ private institutions to do anything. As an employee of the South Carolina Policy Council which purports to believe in ‘FREE markets,’ I am surprised that you apparently support such statism. Perhaps that is one reason your board members are leaving in disgust.”

By that logic, a private hospital should be allowed to turn away blacks, Jews or anyone else they don’t want inside their doors. We’ve been down that road before as a nation and it wasn’t one of our prouder periods.

And then there’s the last bit of Mr. Cassidy’s blather – “… now we learn that ‘research’ is based on Wikipedia entries.  If you are the face of modern journalism, it is small wonder that it is dying, and that your ‘Nerve’ blog has, at best, 1/2 the traffic that mine has and 1/5 the number of sites linking in.”

My apologies, Mr. Cassidy. I didn’t realize that crafting a comment on a blog required extensive research.

I’ve got a feeling on the rare occasions when you actually do write your own stories – rather than simply cribbing them from whatever crackpot media outlet best serves your narrow-minded worldview – Wikipedia would represent a step up in terms of your research efforts.

Behind the facade of a Death Row legend

Viva Leroy Nash, the oldest death row inmate in the United States, died Friday in Arizona of natural causes at age 94.

Nash spent most of his life in prison, beginning at age 15. He shot a policeman in Connecticut in 1947 and was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for a robbery and murder in Salt Lake City in 1977.

In 1982 he escaped from a prison work crew and three weeks later killed a coin shop employee in Phoenix and traumatized another employee. 

Nash, by then 67,  was convicted of first-degree murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault and theft, and sentenced to death in 1983. He spent much of the last three decades of his life filing appeals, gaining a small measure of fame as nation’s oldest death row inmate.

Comments by one of his attorneys in an Associated Press story about Nash’s death make the two-time murderer sound like some sort of romantic outlaw:

“He was born in 1915 and he was sent to prison in 1930,” said attorney Thomas Phalen. “Think about it – he had 15 years of life in southern Utah, at a time when Utah and Arizona was the wild, wild West – and he went to prison in 1930, and he remained in prison for the next 80 years, more or less.”

Later, Phalen added, “I celebrate the fact that God has prevented the state of Arizona from killing this man. That, to me, is a triumph. My heart goes out to the victims, the victims’ families, but this man did not deserve the death penalty, in my opinion.”

It might have been nice if The Associated Press could have been bothered asking the families of Nash’s victims what they thought of this career criminal sitting on Death Row for nearly 30 years and tying up the legal system with appeals.

Since the AP couldn’t be bothered talking to those scarred by Nash’s actions, here’s a link to well-researched 2008 piece by the Phoenix New Times that looked at both Nash and those whose lives he impacted.

Sun News allows facts into flag flap

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Kudos to The Myrtle Beach Sun News for running Teddy Rosenthal’s letter regarding the Confederate flag.

Rosenthal, of Surfside Beach, SC, eloquently and intelligently responds to a letter written by a Coastal Carolina University student originally from New York that was based on much emotion but few facts and titled “Symbol connected to hate should be rejected.”

Some highlights from Rosenthal’s letter:

While slavery was indeed an underlying cause of the Civil War, the Southern response contested the legitimacy of the federal government’s power to usurp the sovereignty of the seceded state governments and impose its will upon those states, which, according to strict interpretation, violated the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

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Facts be damned, we need readers!

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There appears to be an uptick in anti-Confederate commentary lately which is notable only in that it seems particularly rife with incendiary inaccuracies.

Take this letter to the editor of the Myrtle Beach Sun News. In a piece titled “Negative association overrides all others,” Joe Peha of Myrtle Beach makes the following claims: 

  • Most of the other states and the world populace recognize the Confederate flag as a tribute to slavery days;
  • Most people that show the Confederate flag in public do so as an anti-black statement;
  • The Confederate flag is comparable to the Nazi flag;
  • The Confederate flag on our Capitol grounds proclaims to the world that South Carolina honors slavery and bigotry.

Instead of laying out the myriad reasons why Mr. Peha would appear to: a) know little to nothing about history or contemporary Southern culture, b) be a crackpot, or c) be simply looking to stir up controversy, a more interesting question might be why newspapers continue to print such claptrap?

Since historians have trouble agreeing on the causes and effects of the Civil War, never mind the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras, it’s hardly surprising non-academics get caught up in arguments, as well. Reasonable people can agree to disagree on facts related to an event as tumultuous and divisive as The War Between the States.

But when individuals such as Mr. Peha pen statements as patently false as “Most people that show (the Confederate flag) in public do so as an anti-black statement” and that the reason we fly the flag on the Statehouse grounds is to “honor slavery and bigotry,” one begins to wonder toward what end newspaper folks are angling by running them?

It seems highly improbable that an editorial page writer at any daily Southern paper would be so poorly schooled on history as to believe the above statements. They also typically don’t print letters that are so devoid of facts that they can’t stand up to the barest of scrutiny.

That’s why one sees few letters to the editor, for example, from proponents of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Don’t think there aren’t folks out there who don’t believe that kind of foolishness; the paper simply makes the decision not to publish their misinformed screeds.

No, but they do print letters they know are false regarding the Confederacy because they understand that taking potshots at Southern culture is an easy way to gin up controversy that generates lots of attention, which sends to traffic to newspaper websites and makes advertisers happy.

What papers don’t see or don’t care about is the fact that by giving such misinformation their imprimatur, they’re effectively eroding their credibility, bit by bit, piece by piece.

Capitalism: A lot more than materialism

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Prolific letter writer Don Boudreaux of the George Mason University Department of Economics rightly points out in this missive to The Washington Post that in many circles, the idea of capitalism – “I keep what what I earn” – is regarded as greedy and unenlightened, while the opposing view – “I want to take what you earn” – is somehow seen as selfless and progressive.

His letter is printed below:

E.J. Dionne describes capitalism as “a system rooted in materialist values” (“To the Right of the Pope,” July 9).  “Materialist values” is a vague term, but if – as seems to be the case – Mr. Dionne thinks the chief justification for capitalism is that it generates lots of stuff for consumers, he’s mistaken.

While capitalism emphatically does improve material living standards, all the great champions of economic freedom (aka capitalism) ultimately justify this system because only it affords true dignity to individuals – the dignity that is denied by interventionist systems which arbitrarily diminish each person’s freedom to choose.  For “Progressives” such as Mr. Dionne not to share the value of freedom is fine.  But it’s rather cheeky to accuse, with one breath, proponents of capitalism of being unduly focused on material goods, and with the next breath to insist that a major problem with capitalism is that some people get fewer material goods than do other people.

Boudreaux has made a name for himself over the years with his many letters to various publications refuting poorly-reasoned economic theories propounded by the mainstream media, decrying big-government apologists who would have us believe that the concept of a “free lunch” does indeed exist and, in general, poking holes in the simplistic market theories that dominate as many newsroom editorial boards as state legislatures and city councils.

One imagines, however, his track record of actually getting the letters in print isn’t all that great. The emperor, after all, doesn’t like being told he has no clothes.

Why let facts challenge sanctimonious rant?

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One Alan Percy of Columbia demonstrates an astounding degree of arrogance and ignorance in his July 3 letter to The State newspaper, titled “Confederate flag has been tainted by racist groups.”

Mr. Percy explains that while he initially had an affinity for the flag, he has since “grown up” and is now repulsed by the banner because it represents “crippling backwardness and virulent racism,” adding that “the great majority of people both inside and outside South Carolina” feel the same way.

Mr. Percy’s reasoning is simple: “It has been irreversibly damaged by its association with the hordes of soulless hate-mongers in the white-power crowd.”

He adds that “Incredibly, our own state Legislature distinguished itself in 1964 with the epically dim-witted decision to raise the flag atop our state capitol dome in a perverse and futile protest over federal civil rights legislation — an act that has done incalculable damage to our state’s image and economy over the years.”

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Singing kumbaya doesn’t pay the bills

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While there’s no doubt that many involved in the Green Movement believe much of the tripe they’re ramming down our throats, one has to wonder if even they at some point question the inanity put forth in the name of “saving the environment.”

Take this bit of “wisdom,” found in last month’s Greater Columbia Business Monthly in an article called “Green Trends Growing in Popularity”:

Research shows that “green” will be the baseline for competition in the next generation. Future employees will make employment decisions based on which companies are “making a difference” or have developed a culture that is good for the environment.

That may be one of the stupider sentiments put down in print in some time. But given that the authors work for a firm that describes itself as having a “passion for sustainable contemporary design,” perhaps the idiocy is understandable. 

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