Where does Tillman statue fit in SC’s future?

Ben Tillman Statue

Earlier this month a Charleston writer took out a full-page advertisement in The State, the daily newspaper of Columbia, SC, calling for the removal of a statue of former governor and US senator Ben Tillman from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds.

Will Moredock has long advocated for the removal of the imposing statue of Tillman, an unabashed racist who perhaps more than anyone else in South Carolina came to embody the evils of post-Reconstruction racism.

Pitchfork Ben Tillman never hid his hatred for blacks or his efforts to maintain white supremacy.

“We have done our level best [to prevent blacks from voting] … we have scratched our heads to find out how we could eliminate the last one of them,” he said in 1900. “We stuffed ballot boxes. We shot them. We are not ashamed of it.”

Tillman’s populist rabble-rousing and first class demagoguery got him elected governor in 1890, turning out the conservative Bourbons, and he was re-elected two years later.

In 1894, he was appointed to the US Senate, where he served until his death in 1918, and he never missed a chance to voice his narrow-minded sentiments.

Tillman is said to have pioneered the use of race to mobilize white voters, and historian James M. McPherson has claimed that Tillman “created the model for two generations of Southern ‘demagogues.’”

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Mauritania: A good time was had by none

Mauritania desert

If one does any bit of traveling it becomes apparent that most any region of the world has its positives and negatives. Your perspective often, but not always, depends on your financial wherewithal.

It’s usually the case that the more money you have at your disposal, the more you’re able to enjoy that which a foreign country has to offer.

However, there ain’t enough lipstick in the world to pretty up some pigs. Case in point is Mauritania, which seems like an utterly miserable locale.

Among other selling points, the West Africa nation has the world’s highest proportion of people in slavery.

An estimated 140,000 to 160,000 of the nation’s 3.8 million people live in slavery, according to the Walk Free Foundation.

Many of the enslaved inherited that status from their ancestors, according to the charity’s Global Slavery Index.

Other estimates are higher: Up to as much as 20 percent of the nation’s population, or nearly 700,000 people, are enslaved, according to CNN.

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Waldo Lydecker: Pithy, provactive, perceptive

Mayor Quimby

For biting yet incisive political commentary, it’s difficult to top Waldo Lydecker’s Journal.

An equal-opportunity critic, Waldo is at his best when analyzing the words and actions of grandstanding politicos whose ultimate goal is self-aggrandizement rather than public service.

As such, the Republican Party, particularly in the Deep South, has been an easy mark in recent years.

Take a recent post by Waldo regarding word that the president of the NC State Baptist Convention will run against incumbent Tar Heel Democratic Senator Kay Hagan in next year’s election.

From Waldo’s post:

Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charlotte, will officially toss his halo into the ring October 2.

Harris is the fourth candidate to seek a six-year free ride to draw a paycheck and oppose everything. Other candidates include NC House Speaker Thom Tillis, who tried to corner to cynical vote in 2012 with a marriage equality ban even he admitted would be history in a few years.

Harris’ entry into the race could heighten the odds of an intra-Teabagger squabble in the primary. Another hopeful, Cary medico Greg Brannon, plans to yard in demagogues like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz to keep the animal spirits animated on the Tinfoil Right.

Harris will, presumably, call on God, who is widely reputed in state GOP circles to be a Republican himself.

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Silent Cal’s unlikely rise to the Oval Office

coolidge swearing in

Ninety years ago tomorrow, Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as the 30th president of the United States.

Far from the grand ceremony that accompanies most presidential inaugurations, the event took place at 2:47 a.m. at Coolidge’s family home in Plymouth Notch, Vt., with Coolidge’s father, a notary public, administering the oath of office in the family parlor by the light of kerosene lamp.

Coolidge, who is noted by history as one of America’s less-demonstrative presidents, promptly returned to bed.

He traveled to Washington, D.C., the next day and was re-sworn by Justice Adolph A. Hoehling, Jr. of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, as there was some confusion over whether a state notary public had the authority to administer the presidential oath.

Coolidge came to be president with the sudden death of Warren Harding, who died in San Francisco while on a tour of the West.

Coolidge’s ascension the presidency was hardly routine.

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There were giants in those days …

whiskey bottles

Listening to the babbling and braying emanating from elected officials today one pines for the days of classical antiquity when rhetoric was seen as an essential part a quality education.

There’s no doubt that effective communication – particularly public speaking – has waned in recent decades as leaders of all stripes have sought to tailor remarks (in dumbed-down fashion, in many instances) for television cameras, news reporters and, most recently, Twitter feeds.

The problem is, elegant discourse rarely comes in 140 characters or less. Sometimes, you actually have to give a real genuine speech in order to get a point across.

That also means you often have to listen to an entire talk to get its full meaning, or to understand the genius behind it.

Case in point is a brief speech delivered by a young Mississippi lawmaker in 1952.

Noah S. “Soggy” Sweat, finishing his first and only term in the Mississippi Legislature, delivered what became known as the “Whiskey Speech.”

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Regina: from Pile o’ Bones to provincial capital

pile-of-bones saskatchewan

The transformation of the Canadian provincial capital of Regina, Saskatchewan, over the past 130 years has been nothing short of remarkable.

Today, it is a city of nearly 200,000 individuals, and features more than 350,000 hand-planted trees, an extensive park system and an array of museums, cathedrals and other elegant structures.

But back in 1882, it was little more than a pile of bones – literally.

The location, near a creek, had been a stopping point for buffalo hunters and gotten its name from remains left at the site.

The mounds of buffalo bones, some left by Cree Indians, were staggering, according to information from the Regina Library.

“The bones resulting from the slaughter were carefully assembled into cylindrical piles about six feet high and about 40 feet in diameter at the base, with the shin and other long bones radiating from the center to make stable and artistic piles,” according to the library’s website. “During the second half of the 19th century, the Métis also slaughtered large numbers of buffalo in this area, and the creek was littered with countless bones.”

Hence, the locale was called “Pile o’ Bones.” However, it was sometimes also referred to by the equally delightful names “Manybones,” “Bone Creek” and  “Tas d’Os” – all of which would have taxed the abilities of even the most fervent chamber of commerce official trying to promote the locale.

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Speaking up for ‘Silent Cal’

calvin coolidge

Book reviews, when done well, can provide useful history lessons in and of themselves.

Take The Economist’s review of Coolidge, Amity Shlaes’ new biography of the underappreciated 30th US president.

“Mr. Coolidge’s hallmark was distrust of government. He saw it as an entity that uses ‘despotic exactions’ (taxes) that sap individual initiative and prosperity across the board …” according to publication.

“Coolidge learned at first towards the surging progressive movement, which supported state intervention and union involvement in the economy,” the review adds. “But his views shifted when he saw what those ideas meant in practice.”

The Economist is not noted for being a publication of a particularly libertarian bent by any means, but it recognizes Coolidge’s achievements during his five-and-a-half years as president, during which American debt fell by one-third, the tax rate by half and unemployment dropped precipitously. It’s unfortunate that more Americans haven’t taken note of Coolidge’s accomplishments.

While no means perfect, Coolidge offers an interesting counterbalance to FDR and his New Deal approach.

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