Zealots: tragedy always equals opportunity

simpsons-mob-torches

This blog isn’t big on examining life’s more crucial issues. There are plenty of other folks who do that, and do it with far more acumen than yours truly could ever hope to muster.

Once in a harvest moon, however, something sticks in my craw and it becomes necessary to put aside the desire to delve into history, economics and whatnot to address the truly idiotic.

Case in point: within hours of the horrific shootings at a Connecticut elementary school last Friday, myriad half-wits were hard at work on outlets such as Facebook and Twitter doing their best to show the world their inept grasp of theology, common sense and overall human decency.

I write of those who posted such foolishness as the image which showed the following rhetoric: “Dear God, why do you allow so much violence in our schools? Signed, a concerned student.” To which God responds: “Dear Concerned Student, I’m not allowed in schools. God.”

Insulting, insensitive and illogical, all in 25 words.

First off, I write what follows knowing full well that those who forward such ill-conceived Internet memes aren’t going to be swayed by any amount of reasoning. Most aren’t even interested in being swayed; they’re simply seeking to push a point of view and will use whatever means available.

As the old saying goes, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

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Recalling the South’s last black senator

blanche bruce

Word that US Rep. Tim Scott will replace Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina means, among other things, that a southern state will be represented by a black senator for the first time in more than 130 years.

The last black senator from the South was Blanche Kelso Bruce, a Republican from Mississippi who served from 1875 to 1881.

Bruce was born a slave in Prince Edward County, Va., in 1841 to a white plantation owner and a house slave. Bruce was unusual in that he was tutored by his master’s son. Also unusual was that Bruce’s father, Pettis Perkinson, legally freed him so he could learn a trade as a printer’s apprentice.

Bruce left Virginia at the beginning of the War Between the States. Rejected for service in the Union Army, Bruce instead taught school and attended Oberlin College for two years.

He then moved to Mississippi where he bought an abandoned cotton plantation and amassed a real estate fortune, according to a 2008 article by Politico.

In addition to being a Mississippi planter, Bruce served as a member of the Mississippi Levee Board – no minor post given the havoc the Mississippi River could wreak with its then-regular flooding – and served as sheriff and tax collector of Bolivar County 1872-1875, according to the Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress.

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Set of Founding Fathers’ signatures up for sale

setofsigners

A rare collection featuring the signatures of all 56 men who signed the US Declaration of Independence will be put up for sale by a New England auction house tomorrow.

RR Auction of Amherst, NH, is auctioning off the Proctor-Sang-Newell Collection of Signers of the Declaration of Independence. RR Auction calls the collection one of the finest quality sets ever offered for sale.

“Most of the examples are substantial-length letters, many of which feature significant historical content by some of the nation’s most important Founding Fathers,” the company writes in promotional material.

The key signature in the Proctor-Sang-Newell Collection is said to be that of Georgia signer Button Gwinnett. There are just 51 examples of his autograph known to exist – and only 11 in private hands, according to RR Auction.

Individual examples of Gwinnett’s autograph have sold for as much as $150,000, making his signature by far the most valuable American autograph.

Gwinnett, born in 1735, had a relatively short public life, being elected to the Georgia Provincial Assembly in 1769 and serving briefly as the provisional president of Georgia in 1777 before being killed in a duel later that same year.

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Census shows decline in Welsh language

welsh flag

Fewer than one in five Welsh residents speak the ancient Celtic language, a recent language census reveals.

The results of the survey, done in 2011 and released this week, represent a decrease from the last census, completed in 2001.

As of 2011, the number of Welsh who speak the language has fallen to 19 percent, down from 21 percent a decade earlier.

Overall, Welsh speakers have fallen from 582,000 in 2001 to 562,000 last year, despite an increase in the size of the population, according to the BBC. Nearly 2.4 million Welsh said they were unable to speak the language.

Figures also suggest Welsh is now a minority language in two heartland areas, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion, while just two areas, Monmouthshire and Cardiff, registered a percentage increase.

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School board math doesn’t always add up

dollar's flow in black hole

If one has ever had to sit through a handful of school board meetings, it readily becomes apparent where the US hatches and nurtures its petty-tyrant class.

While many well-intentioned folks serve on school boards, there are plenty who do it not because they have the best interests of children or their communities at heart, but because they enjoy the recognition and power that goes with the position.

Unfortunately, as a National Public Radio report demonstrates, these folks often rank below Congress and even banana republic dictators when it comes to being responsible stewards of public dollars.

Consider: In California, San Diego’s Poway Unified School District borrowed approximately $105 million through a capital appreciation bond. But “debt service will be almost $1 billion,” according to NPR.

When faced with the bad logic of their decisions, school board members, at least in California, often refuse to admit the ill-logic of their decisions.

But California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer had no problem sizing up the situation.

“They are terrible deals,” Lockyer told the Los Angeles Times. “The school boards and staffs that approved of these bonds should be voted out of office and fired.”

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Last US ‘double ace’ of Korean War dies at 88

Ralph Parr

Ralph Parr, the last American double ace of the Korean War, died late last week at age 88.

Parr, a Virginia native who also flew in World War II and the Vietnam War, shot down 10 enemy aircraft in a seven-week period during the 1950-53 conflict.

He is the only individual to be awarded both the Distinguished Service Cross and its successor, the Air Force Cross.

Parr was one of just 11 Americans to achieve double-ace status by shooting down 10 or more planes during the Korean War.

Parr had undergone treatment for cancer in recent weeks at an assisted living facility in New Braunfels, Texas, where he died Friday, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

His death comes just five weeks after that of longtime friend and flying companion Frederick C. “Boots” Blesse, who had been the only other surviving double-ace from the Korean Conflict. Blesse also registered 10 kills.

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Tobacco auctions making a comback

Tobacco Auction

The sing-song cry of the tobacco auctioneer – which wafted across Tobacco Road for decades but has been largely silent since 2004 – is beginning to be heard once again.

Auctioneers have become involved in the sale of the leafy crop for the first time in any size since the quota buyout of 2004, Southeast Farm Press reports.

For example, 265,000 pounds of flue-cured and a little burley tobacco were sold in late October at an auction held in the Old Belt Tobacco Sales warehouse in Rural Hall, N.C.

“The average price was just under $2.02 per pound, very competitive with contract delivery stations,” the publication reported. “Many of the lots brought $2.20 a pound, also very high, and there were substantially no rejections of bids by farmers.”

This was the third year that Old Belt Tobacco Sales has conducted auctions in Rural Hall, 10 miles north of Winston-Salem, Southeast Farm Press added.

In 2010, the warehouse sold five million pounds, then 2.5 million pounds in 2011, when Hurricane Irene reduced the tobacco available.

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