Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Kickin' Pickin'

Swing by my Fig Columbia blog page and comment for the chance to win a free ticket to a pig pickin' this Sunday. Remember, you have to comment over there to be eligible.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I've Started Shelby Foote's "Civil War"

Shelby Foote - Southern Man of Letters

Now that I've finished a biography of Douglas MacArthur, I've decided to take the plunge into Shelby Foote's three volume history of the Civil War. (Sorry Admiral Nimitz, you'll have to wait.)

To be fair I'm not reading it. My conscience compels me to admit that I'm not reading it in the strict sense. I'm listening to it as an audio-book. Yes, I feel a little twinge of guilt for not actually reading the book, but I don't feel that guilty.

Actually, I feel so little guilt that I actually have a complaint about the audio-book - the reader's voice is not that good. The reader's voice is tinny and flatly accented (no accent at all), sounding more like a computer than an actual person. This is such a shame, since Foote had a wonderful low, gravely Southern accent that just curled up on you like a sleepy cat  looking for a warm place to rest.

In learning a tiny bit about Foote himself, I have come across some wonderful anecdotes about his life and quotes from him about writing and life in general. One of my favorite anecdotes is as follows:
A story I’ve heard, possibly apocryphal, has it that Shelby Foote and William Faulkner once made a pilgrimage together to the battlefields of Shiloh, in Tennessee. It was a Sunday morning, but along the way they were able to score some moonshine from a fellow they spotted having his shoes shined, Faulkner’s logic being that any man having his shoes shined was likely to know where to find some whiskey. By the time they’d reached the battlefield’s famed Peach Orchard, they were loose enough to want to reenact the great cavalry charge on their own, sabers drawn in their minds. That’s how to drink like a Southerner.
I hope that's a true story.

What Every President Liked To Drink

Here's a sampling, a tasting, if you will:
John Adams
Adams loved alcohol, starting almost every morning with a hard cider. Then porter beer, rum and copious amounts of Madeira.
Teddy Roosevelt
Teddy liked Mint Juleps and used them to entice his cabinet to come play tennis with him at the White House. He used fresh mint from the White House garden:
10 to 12 fresh mint leaves “muddled” with a splash of water and a sugar cube
2 or 3 oz. of rye whiskey
¼ oz. of brandy
Sprig or two of fresh mint as a garnish
Lyndon B. Johnson
LBJ loved Scotch whiskey and enjoyed driving (at high speeds) around his Texas ranch while drinking it out of a plastic cup.
I'm only going to quote three, because four would be too much. Everything in moderation, right?

If you feel like consuming more, you can see the whole list here.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

An Autumn Weekend in Williamsburg, VA

William & Mary in 1902 (it hasn't changed much since then)

I'm spending the weekend in Williamsburg, VA. Autumn is absolutely wonderful in Virginia. Enjoy the weekend, y'all.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The CDC Guy Isn't Filling Me With Confidence

Sorry for the lack of blog content lately, it's been a bit busy at work.

But how about that Ebola? Between the CDC telling us it's all going to be fine and people getting infected, it's not really inspiring much confidence.

"I think there are two different parts of that equation," he continued. "The first is, if you’re a member of the traveling public and are healthy, should you be worried that you might have gotten it by sitting next to someone? And the answer is no."

"Second, if you are sick and you may have Ebola, should you get on a bus? And the answer to that is also no. You might become ill, you might have a problem that exposes someone around you," he said.

So let me get this straight. I can't get Ebola by sitting next to someone on a bus who has Ebola. Great. Got it. I feel safe. But immediately afterwards, this guys says that if I have Ebola, I shouldn't ride on the bus because I might give it to someone. Wait, what? I thought we were all good with Ebola people riding the bus. How does that work? You can't catch Ebola on the bus, but you can give someone Ebola on the bus?

Now, I'm kind of making fun of him here, because I see what he's trying to do. However, he's making his point in a horrible way. In the first part, he's saying that your likelihood of getting Ebola from riding the bus is really low, because it's highly unlikely that anyone on the bus has Ebola.

However, in the next part, he's talking about someone who actually has Ebola shouldn't ride the bus. Well, duh. Obviously. But that's apples and oranges. And it's kind of just a stupid way to say "Don't get all worried about this Ebola thing". But here's the problem: I don't think anyone would worry about Ebola very much if we all felt like the guys at the CDC were really worried about it on our behalf. However, that's not really the vibe they're sending out. The CDC guy keeps sending out the "This Is No Big Deal" vibe to me, and they keep screwing up the protocols.

Over at Brad's blog-o-rama the other day, Brad mentioned how in Tom Clancy's books, there were always competent and diligent professionals who were combating the bad guys - specifically in the situation where bad guys use Ebola against the US as a weapon.

I don't think that the current guy in charge of the CDC fits that mold. He just seems so reactive and passive. He's not an assertive kind of guy that I feel confident is going to do all the things necessary to really contain this disease in an aggressive manner. He seems mostly concerned with PR.

Which I'm sure really worries the Ebola virus.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Even Gun Control Supporters Have Guns

Maher then looked at Affleck and said, "I mean, you have guns." To which Affleck responded, "I do." The audience grew quiet for a second and then roused up when Maher said, "So do I, and for that exact reason." Maher added: "I'm not disarming unilaterally."  

-Ben Affleck and Bill Maher on Owning Guns (Real Time With Bill Maher October 3rd)
Huh. Kind of funny how that works, ain't it?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Wow, this week has flown by.

It's almost Friday.

AG Wilson Asks SC Supreme Court to Address Issue of Same Sex Marriage In South Carolina

UPDATE: The SC Supreme Court has issued an order, which basically stays all SC probate courts from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the federal court litigation is resolved. The status quo ante of no same-sex marriage will remain in place.

If you're following the same-sex marriage news these days, you've seen a lot of action in South Carolina this week.

First, on Monday, the United States Supreme Court decided not to hear a case that involved same-sex marriage, with the implication being that SCOTUS wasn't going to overturn a decision banning same-sex marriage. Everyone basically interpreted this to mean that SCOTUS wasn't going to support any ban on same-sex marriages.

Accordingly, on Wednesday the Charleston County Probate Court started accepting applications for marriage licences to same-sex couples. Note, this is different than actually granting the marriage license, but it's tantamount to doing so.

Also on Wednesday, there was a rally at the SC Statehouse to support what the Charleston County Probate Court was doing. At the rally, the supporters of same sex marriage encouraged same-sex couples to apply for marriage licenses throughout the state of South Carolina. Additionally, the group called on Alan Wilson to simply do nothing and not file any action to enforce the provision in our State Constitution banning same-sex marriage.

However, Alan Wilson decided that he was going to ask the SC Supreme Court to resolve this issue. His filing is here. [PDF]

I think that's the right move by Alan Wilson. We have a law. In fact, it's part of our State Constitution. We can't just ignore it without a court formally declaring it to be invalid. If you go read the petition that Wilson filed, that's basically what he's saying.
"Moreover, a public official may not refuse to follow State law because 'he thought the law unconstitutional.' It is, instead, his or her duty to 'follow it until judicially declared invalid.' Trustees of Wofford College v. Burnett, 209 S.C. 92, 104-5, 395 S.E.2d 155 (1946).
This is about the rule of law and legal process. We can't just have Probate Judges in each county deciding if they are or are not going to follow the law. Once the law is ruled unconstitutional, which it will be, then the Probate Courts can issue licences - not before.

Alan Wilson is doing the right thing by filing this petition.

You can't skip steps.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Gator Hunting Postgame Analysis and Photo

As I previously mentioned, I went on an alligator hunt this past Friday night. Here's the money-shot:

Five foot alligator just after being harvested near Walterboro, SC
Gator-hunting is a pretty active kind of hunt. You're not just sitting there waiting for a gator to come along. Your actually out hunting for them, as in actively prowling through the marsh looking for them. It's not like deer hunting where you just sit and wait for a deer to walk out in front of you.

Basically, you have to find the gator, hook the gator, let him fight a little so he's tired out, then get him in close to the boat so you can dispatch him with a shot to the head in a coup de grace.

Oh, and gators are kinda tough. This one, after being shot in the head and having his spinal column severed with a knife, still was wiggling his tail and moving his feet thirty minutes later. Point being, gators are really tough animals. It's no surprise that they've been around since the dinosaur times without evolving very much.

If you're a hunter, and you ever get the rare chance to go gator hunting, don't pass it up. I'll be looking for some good gator recipes now.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Beer, Battle Flags, and Gators

Lots of things to do today , but I have to throw some meat at you jackals. Accordingly, I'm going to link myself to this awesome article about the Hunter-Gatherer that I did for Fig.

In other news, the Democratic candidate for Governor has taken a strong stand on the Confederate Flag. (SPOILER ALERT: He's against it.) Mostly, I am fine to take the flag down. It's not an issue at the top of my Important Issues List, but then again, everyone's not me. I can hear some of y'all now: Thank god for that.

I'll be going alligator hunting tomorrow evening, so right now the issue on top of my Important Issues list is to make sure that I don't end up getting eaten by a big gator down in the ACE Basin.

Hopefully, I'll have some good pictures for y'all afterwards.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Northeast US has lost 40% of its members from the US House of Representatives since 1950

That's quite a loss of power. When you think of how politically powerful the Northeast has been over the history of our country, it's quite astounding to see the shift. You can blame tax rates, weather, culture, or other factors, but whatever the reason, it's clear that fewer people than ever before are living in the Northeast, relative to the rest of the country.

As a South Carolinian, I say that's fine with me.

I like to tell people who move to South Carolina from other places: It's ok if you weren't born a Southerner, as long as you got here as fast as you could.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday Mid-Morning Headlines Thread 9-29-14

It's been a long weekend 'round these parts. We had a birthday party for the (now) three-year-old son, watched the Gamecocks lose a heart-breaker, and generally enjoyed the wonderful cool weather that indicates summer is in full retreat.

Anyway, pour some coffee and get to it. It's Monday.

Here are some of the interesting stories I'm seeing this morning:

1. A Louisiana restaurant is giving 10% discount to concealed weapon carriers. I love it. Anti-gun folks are probably going nuts somewhere.

2. The Khorosan Group is actually al-Qaeda. So that's why no one had heard of them up until we were told they were the most dangerous group ever.

3.  Indicted House Speaker Bobby Harrell's bond has been set at $18,000 and he has to get permission from the Court if he wants to leave the State of South Carolina. However, "Harrell has been granted permission to attend USC's game this weekend in Lexington, Kentucky against the Wildcats." Priorities, right? He may be under indictment, but he'll be darned if he ain't going to the Carolina/Kentucky game.

4. Fans will be able to give input on the name of the minor league team that is coming to Columbia soon. I'm partial to the Columbia Corruption, myself, but there are lots of options here.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Some Initial Thoughts on the SC Highway Patrolman Shooting in Columbia, SC

If you hadn't already seen this, on September 4, a South Carolina Highway Patrol officer shot a motorist during a traffic stop. They just released the dashboard cam video yesterday. Here's the video.

I've watched the video a few times, and it's clear that this was not a good traffic stop. Also, I'm going to say this up front: This shooting should not have happened. Nothing I am about to say should be construed to justify this shooting. OK? So save all the hate mail.

My initial impression is that things start to go a little sideways when the driver gets out of the car. Normally, you stay in your car at a traffic stop. Pretty much everyone knows that. I think law enforcement officers kind of get their "antenna up" when a driver immediately gets out of the car at a traffic stop.

Having said that, this officer certainly did not handle the situation appropriately. He did not control the environment well, and he did not interact with the driver appropriately. So, even though the driver did not do a good thing by getting out of the car, it's the officer's job to handle that situation.

It appears to me that the officer assumed that the driver was reaching into his car for a weapon. This was a bad assumption. Police officers should not shoot people based on assumptions.

Here are the factors that jump out at me that make this incident really bad;

Obviously, it's a white officer shooting a black driver. So of course, there's the element of race. Would this officer have reacted the same way if the driver had been an elderly white woman? I don't know. But this is the first factor that everyone sees. And it's important to recognize this factor.

The traffic stop seems to have occurred during the day. To me, this factor cuts against the officer. We're not talking about a 2:00AM traffic stop, here. For all the officer knows, this guy is on his way to work or something. The scene is well-lit, and there aren't any obstructions.

According to the WIS piece I linked above, the traffic stop was for a seat-belt violation. Now, it's fair game to stop someone for not wearing a seat-belt, but we're not talking about a felony here. Common sense tells you that stopping someone for a seat-belt violation is different than stopping someone for a serious charge. Again, this factor cuts against the officer. Not wearing your seat belt is a relatively minor violation.

Also, when did the officer draw his weapon? It's not clear from the video, but the first time you see the officer come into view, he already has his weapon drawn, extended, and pointed at the driver. To me, this indicates he already had it drawn. Again, that doesn't seem right.

Those are all bad things. Now for a couple of positives:

The driver is alive. That's the best news. No one is dead. Thank goodness.

Unlike Ferguson, there is a dashboard camera video, so we can all see what happened. We're not relying on eyewitness accounts from people inside the gas station. Remember how all the eyewitness accounts in Ferguson were dramatically different? At least with a video, there is a record of what happened.

The police officer was fired, and charged with a crime. This is probably the most important thing, so I probably should have mentioned it earlier. Law enforcement has to operate under the same laws as you and I do. Therefore, if you or I had shot this man in this situation, it's clear that we would have been arrested. Accordingly, I applaud the authorities for not trying to put the officer on "administrative leave" or some nonsense. You apply the same process to police officers as you do to citizens. This officer is now facing up to 20 years in prison for this incident. That's not inconsequential.

The video was released. This point dovetails into the lat one, but it's commendable that the video was released so we could all see for ourselves what actually occurred. There doesn't appear to be any attempt to sweep this under the rug. And that's very good.

Hopefully, the authorities will continue act in a responsible manner and other law enforcement officers will take this as a moment to really think about how they conduct traffic stops. They have a tough job, but they also have the responsibility to do it correctly. In this incident, the job was not handled correctly.

Anyone else have any other thoughts? There's lots to unpack here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"We Must Declare War Upon War"

Said President Obama at the UN, today. That's an actual quote. He actually said that. Really.

My reaction to declaring "war on war".

First of all, that's just a weird construction. War on war? Huh? That sounds like something out of Dr. Strangelove.

As to the substance, it's a naive and silly idea to try and declare war on war because you're never going to win the War on War.

There are always going to be aggressive nations/groups who ultimately decide to use force of arms against others. This will always be the case. To try and "end war" is like trying to "end sadness". It ain't gonna happen.

The problem is that in almost all things, President Obama sees the world as he wants to see it, and not how it actually is.