Something about old gas pumps pleases me. I think of them as elder statesmen, as senior citizens left behind by the rush of time itself. When I see a proud old pump, its dispensing days behind it, I feel a surge of pride tinged by sadness. Veterans of another era, they have been put out to pasture.
I have a long history with gas pumps, and I’m sure you do too. Ever wondered how many hours you’ve spent by a gas pump…
still debating science
On Monday, April 24th, Rick Santorum, the former Representative, Senator, and Presidential candidate, made an appearance at Unity Christian School in Rome, Georgia. He was there as a paid speaker for Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) to speak about what he described as traditional American values. Much of the content emphasized Judeo-Christian values and the place they should have in our society, a narrative constructed in large part from Santorum’s own Catholicism.
counterfactuals are free
Did the world need another biography of V.I. Lenin? That we have no need of new biographies of Napoleon Bonaparte, Abraham Lincoln, Adolf Hitler or Winston Churchill is obvious. Yet they will be published. In contrast the world might be rather richer for new biographies of Ranavalona I, Jósef Pilsudski, Pancho Villa and Trygve Lie. But another Lenin biography?
Lenin’s seeming unparalleled role in making history is Tariq Ali’s excuse…
The first time I heard of Branchville, South Carolina, I was a ticket agent at the bus station in Athens, Georgia. A passenger bought a one-way ticket to this hamlet and I ran the white-yellow-pink carbon-paper ticket through a machine like those that once processed credit card transactions. When the call to board the bus came, the passenger got on. Never saw him again. That was forty-four years ago.
In the hot summer of 1963. Governor George Wallace, already campaigning hard for the 1964 presidential election, made his infamous “stand in the schoolhouse door” of Foster Auditorium, where registration regularly occurred. Wallace summoned the Alabama National Guard to block black student Vivian Malone. Attorney General Robert Kennedy then nationalized the Guard. Thus, at showdown, state’s rights yielded to federal rights; the law of the land was national, not just local.
eu could learn a lot
There has been some strong language from some European Union representatives about Great Britain’s planned exit from the EU. Great Britain’s politicians have responded with strong words as both sides position themselves for the “Brexit” negotiations. Some of the 751 European Parliament members will be happy when Great Britain departs the scene because “they were never one of us!” Others will be concerned about Brexit because the EU will become more of a “GEU” with the weaker economies…
“A man who views the world at fifty the same as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” – Muhammad Ali
Sitting in Cafe Lafitte’s in Exile on a recent March morning, enjoying the best Bloody Mary in that foodie town, I wasn’t thinking about Ali. I was talking to Harvey, the guy on the next stool. But the words of The Greatest were appropriate.
Two years prior, Suzy and I had stumbled into Lafitte’s asking for directions to a voodoo shop…
for a clear style
Academic writing styles sometimes impress more than they enlighten. Professors assign much that is gratuitously opaque. Some students conclude that the way to be considered smart is to master the the professional jargon. Yet, bright people with good ideas need to write clearly if they want discerning readers. For some graduates, a doctorate is the “terminal degree” indeed: few read or publish their manuscripts. When they enter a university, students often write more clearly and forcefully than do many professors.
5 decades of public service
Sculptor Rick Weaver captured the body language of Fritz Hollings just right in a new statue unveiled Monday as former colleagues heaped praises on the retired senator, now 95.
Three things stand out in the bronze figure – the warm, but determined, look on Hollings’ face; how his left hand is grasping a rolled-up document; and, most notably, an outstretched right hand, a familiar gesture to many of the senator’s former staffers and friends.
earth day message:
On this Earth Day, it’s fitting for coastal Georgians to reconsider the importance of strong ties between our economy and environmental health. Too often, outmoded, poorly-informed viewpoints unfairly portray environmental quality as being contrary to jobs and a robust economy.
Yet, coastal Georgia’s economic vitality thrives on the protection of marshes, fisheries, and waterways. According to estimates of the Center for a Sustainable Coast, at least 40,000 jobs and $2 billion a year in commerce depends …
release your tax returns
Once again, President Tweety has claimed that Americans who march in protest of his policies or of him personally are doing so for pay. His latest accusation came in a tweet on Easter Sunday, one day after citizens in cities as far flung as New York and Birmingham hit the streets to demand that he release his tax returns.
I am going to take him at his word that events like these are orchestrated and funded as part of a vast left-wing conspiracy. And I would like to ask a simple question: Where do I sign up?
Though it’s not stated in the U.S. Constitution, the quality of fairness is embodied in our government. After all, we are a nation of laws, and that alone speaks to reason and decorum in deliberations. Throw out fairness and you move toward chaos. Without fairness, you raise questions of trust and partiality and bias, and even decorum. This basis of fairness in our everyday lives extends to relationships and commerce…
subverting the constitution
The United States’ revolutionary war grew out of the monopolistic policies, supported by corrupt British crown and government, of the Earth’s first major corporation, the East India Company. So claims Thom Hartmann in his book Unequal Protection. Once overthrown, our corporations quest to return to power was resisted by Jefferson, Madison and other pro-democracy anti-federalists (Hamilton and Adams leading the Federalists)…
locust and wild honey
I wish that I could find a way never to think in stereotypes, but I find that stereotypes often seem so matter-of-fact that I don’t even notice them as stereotypes. I have not found a way to abandon them en masse, but only one at a time. The process is usually more painful than it was this time. Ten years ago, on April 10, 2007, I flew to Memphis, rented a car and drove to Tupelo, Mississippi, base of Donald Wildmon‘s hostile American Family Association …
Bidding for public attention among Republican state legislators appears astonishingly intense. Consider Colorado State Representative Dave (not David) Williams. On first encounter, Williams appears to be just another standard issue ‘guns, fetuses and homophobia’ Republican. His issue page endorses the Second Amendment as defense against enemies “foreign and domestic.” How he squares appeals to Red Dawn wingnut fantasies with his national party leader being in the pocket of President Vladimir Putin is anyone’s guess…
bear on the square
Bear On The Square Mountain Festival in Dahlonega, Ga., has added a new special event, the Moonlight Jam, for its 2017 festival lineup.
The Moonlight Jam, sponsored by Jekyll Brewing Company of Alpharetta, Ga., will take place on Saturday evening, April 22, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. in the festival’s MainStage festival tent. The tent will open at 7 p.m., and the jam will start at 7:30 p.m. and will continue until around 9:30 p.m. Like other Bear on the Square events, there will be no charge for admission.
unfolding before our eyes
“For evil to happen, all that is necessary is for good [people] to do nothing.”—Edmund Burke
It’s a question that must be asked.
Aristotle defined evil simply as untruth. By this yardstick, Trump—who revels in fake news, alternative facts, birtherism, and Breitbart conspiracies—qualifies as evil.
But it’s far more complicated than that.
start without me
I haven’t read Uecker’s book but did see him catch Warren Spahn when the Braves lived in Milwaukee. The regular catcher was injured, tired or given a day off and Uecker, usually a reliable knuckle ball catcher, started the game. Uecker went on to become an excellent baseball commentator, actor and a funny guy…
robber barons on a trump scale
The release by the White House of the financial worth of President Trump’s top advisors, in a Friday night dump timed for underplaying bad news (an April Fool’s joke on us?), was a face punch that we needed. While we were all staggering to understand Trump and his election – baffled, as Steve Bannon told us we were – this knocks us upright, a clarifying blow. These guys, Steve Bannon, son-in-law Jered Kushner, Gary Cohn, Kellyanne Conway and all, are worth hundreds of millions. Added to the billionaires on the cabinet, the West Wing cocktail party guests are worth a total of $12 billion, according to Bloomberg.
Americans have reason to be impressed by the U.S. State Department’s formal denunciation of the Russian crackdown on the March 26th demonstrations. Although there was nothing inspiring in the wording of the official condemnation – indeed it de-mothballed the long exhausted ‘marketplace of ideas’ trope – it was nonetheless perfectly adequate to the task. Given the incompetence performance of this most aberrant of presidential administrations, achieving mere adequacy is noteworthy.
the knife of tax-greed
“Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed.”-Wallace Stegner
Cumberland Island National Seashore and United Nations Biosphere Reserve is the largest of the southern United States’ sea islands. It is a paradise of eco-diversity and incomparable beauty. Visitors can only access the island by a private boat or the ferry from St. Marys, Georgia, and when they arrive, they find that they have been transported to a realm that is beyond all expectations.
President Donald Trump kept his campaign vow to put more Americans back to work by signing an executive order Wednesday that will ease government regulations against the surgical removal of testicles and revive the long-languishing castrato industry in this country.
“C’mon, fellas, you know what this is, you know what this says,” Trump said during a signing ceremony at the White House where he was flanked on stage by unemployed males with low-pitched vocal ranges…
Returning from South Georgia after attending a funeral this week, we got off the Interstates for a while, and enjoyed the less stressful driving on the back roads. All in all, it‘s much more enjoyable, too, as you see how the crops are doing (the Vidalias are green topped and ready for harvest), check out the small communities, and see Georgia in a way as it was in the past.
This time one particular element struck me: in much of rural Georgia, there are many, many homes, barns, and other outbuildings that are no longer in service, abandoned, deteriorating, and wasting away…
Consistent with the well-considered advice from Columbia University economist, Geoffrey Heal, Georgians need to get savvier about how state policies are being used to support business ventures and job creation. According to Professor Heal, “If we don’t make some changes in the way we organize our economic systems… we will see catastrophic environmental change in our lifetimes.” (Catalyst, Winter 2017.) He stresses that neglecting nature in economic decisions seriously threatens our prosperity.
It was winter and Canada was in recession when I arrived as a new immigrant. Finding work when many Canadians were unemployed was a challenge because employers were looking for Canadians, not immigrants who may move on to someplace else. I was unemployed for five months, living in a boarding house, and had no money when I finally found work. There were no government unemployment benefits.
because poverty is the same
Funny how one thing can lead to another. In a recent column about Lewis Grizzard, the famous Southern author and humorist, I mentioned that he was from Moreland, Ga., a town in Coweta County about 40 miles southwest of Atlanta. Moreland is a community of fewer than 500 souls, but this tiny town has produced two of Georgia’s most famous sons. The other was Erskine Caldwell, born in 1903, who became one of the world’s best-selling authors.
Having written and published a book about public transportation that is a novel wrapped in political satire, I have been lately asking myself, “What possessed you to embark on this journey in the first place?
Coincidentally, I need look no further than a piece I wrote called “Book Spotting,” that appeared in Like the Dew in 2011. The article mentions a fictitious book club on the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) whose basic membership requirement was to read something while riding public transportation…
Fear. Of all the four-letter words in the English language, “fear” might be the worst. It’s certainly the most terrifying. Everyone knows fear and no one escapes it. There’s a special kind of fear that youngsters confront though. Fear of yourself. Fear of discovering who you might be and what you might be able to do. It’s the great unknown that young kids face every day. Some conquer that fear spectacularly. Some find different ways of coping with it. And some get crushed by it.
Hitler and drugs are such an obvious formula for successful popular history that it is a wunder someone hadn’t already published something similar to Norman Ohler’s 2016 Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany. Likely to please readers interested in social history and drug policy, the book is certain to perturb serious political and military historians with what appear almost uni-causal explanations for phenomena such as Adolf Hitler’s erratic decision making and the success of the blitzkrieg as a strategy…
remembering the king
During the spring of 2001, a few months before America changed for the worse, Shane and I were working on a dream trip. We were going to Wrigley, and taking my grandson with us. The feeling reminded me of Christmas the year I got my first 26” bicycle.
The plans had been made; tickets for game and plane confirmed; hotel rooms reserved. About to bust from anticipation, I looked up activities for that weekend just to occupy my time. The Chicago Blues Festival, long on my bucket list, was happening the same weekend we’d be there…
injustices – a book review
If you’ve ever wondered how the Supreme Court, in its great wisdom, came to the proposition that corporations are persons with all the rights thereof, I suggest you read Injustices: The Supreme Court’s History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted by Ian Millhiser.
There is plenty of precedent for that body making law out of whole cloth. Basically two forces are at work in the court, as in our great land, sometimes in the same justice, one dissenting, one dominating…
making america worse
The White House’s budget proposal includes a $54 billion increase in military spending that ostensibly will be offset by cuts to a variety of cabinet-level departments and lesser agencies, among the the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides funding that helps fuel the Public Broadcasting Service, National Public Radio, some170 public-TV stations, and 900-plus public radio stations.
for our ultimate audience
Talk about writer’s block: What about having to write an epitaph for your mother’s gravestone? The idea of an epitaph, of course, is that it’s written for the ages, even those short simple annals of the poor on weed-lost tombstones.
I write, and teach writing. I teach that it starts with your audience. If you’ve been writing only for your teacher, you haven’t really started to learn writing. Writing well for a mass of strangers – that’s more like it.
I am looking for new friends to replace those who have fallen off the perch already and to increase my personal wealth. The new friends will need to share my values of honest hard work, democracy, freedom of speech, equality, love of the great outdoors, baseball, football and a passion for fine red wine.
For a long time I thought great wealth was the secret to friendship because the few millionaires I met had a lot of friends…
A fine Southern mansion complete with its own bowling alley? ’Tis true. A glimpse of the wealth and majesty that came with the era of Carolina Gold rice? True. Sumptuous grounds and landscaping directed by a man from my hometown? Lincolnton, Georgia. True, indeed.
“Stately, gorgeous and unspoiled, Arcadia is set between Pawley’s Island and Georgetown, encompassing all the property on both sides of the highway with the exception of DeBordieu Colony, Prince George and Hobcaw Barony.”
harder than it has to be
It occurs to me that the other people who live at my house have an absolute unholy fascination with time. These people HAVE to know EXACTLY what time it is – at all times. It’s an obsession. Sometimes I think the rest of them were related to Galileo, Pope Gregory or that our last name was not ‘Cantrell’ but rather, Bulova.
There is a clock of some kind in every room of our house. In a couple of rooms there’s more than one…
author, friend, family man
Not quite a year ago thunderstorms shook the South Carolina Midlands. For those who mark calendars, they rumbled through April Fool’s Day around 4 a.m. Later that morning my friend, Dianne, sent me a text. “We lost Sam last night.” Rains had come to wash away a man’s last earthly footprints. Said his loving wife, Myra, “a renaissance man left us.” I knew what she meant. Samuel Steven Morton and I traveled a bit of road. I first met Sam …
There Is a Season
To everything, turn, turn, turn.
There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to be born, a time to die.
We never thought Sophie would be our last cat standing. Our almost eighteen-year-old aging feline, still a debutante in her own mind, has now bid us farewell…
on lewis grizzard
My wife and I drove last week to Marietta, Ga., for a wedding party. Imagine my surprise when on a stretch of I-85 in Coweta County, about 40 miles southwest of Atlanta, I saw a sign that read: Lewis Grizzard Memorial Highway.
It warmed my heart, for I knew the late Lewis Grizzard when years ago I was a writer/editor for The Atlanta Constitution, where his incredible rise to fame began.
caines family, genuine folk artists
As I turned off Highway 17 onto West Virginia Road, snowy mountains and the blue-green Kanawha River came to mind, but neither snow nor mountains waited in Carolina Rice Country. Legendary folk artists waited—The Caines Boys. Now right here let’s get clear on names. The Caines Brothers are dead and gone. The Caines Boys, Jerry and Roy, live on. The first time I heard of Caines decoys, it was a reference to the Caines Brothers who came to fame in Georgetown in the first half of the last century…
no ice, no skates, no puck
“I’m open,” I realized as I sped down the cold gray parking lot surface. “But does he see it?”
Growing up a boy on the Jersey Shore in the early 1970’s, baseball was our summer passion. We’d play all day long on a sandlot and then go home and put our uniforms on for that night’s Little League game. In the fall, it was football, of course. No helmets, no pads, barely any rules. However, in the winter, we played street hockey.
how to ban muslims: ask mississippi
In The Promise of the New South, Edward Ayers tells of James Z. George, a U.S. senator from Mississippi who predicted that, in 1890 (just a year away), the number of African American in the state would exceed that of whites by half a million. George was worried about what this meant for the state’s political future. Democrats had controlled Mississippi since the end of Reconstruction, but now, the black population was growing so ominously and Republicans …
essentials of life
“Gee, Brain, what are we going to do tonight?”
“The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world.”
With apologies to the creators of Pinky and the Brain, the wickedly witty cartoon series about a super-smart laboratory mouse and his decidedly less cerebral sidekick, I imagine an exchange like that recurring nightly at the White House between President Donald Trump and senior adviser Steve Bannon – except…
wouldn’t be and never was
We gotta get out of this place
If it’s the last thing we ever do
We gotta get out of this place
Girl, there’s a better life for me and you
Somewhere baby, somehow I know it
My Aunt Dolly seldom went to the movies, but my sisters and I sat down with her in 1978 to watch the TV mini-series “The Awakening Land,” a fictionalized account of a family who moved into the Ohio wilderness toward the end of the eighteenth century …
stay vigilant but
We’re all exercised by recent events in America, even to the extent of disturbed sleep. I dreamed of America being violated, helpless to resist. This is not just America’s problem; it has the capacity to rock the world. Facebook is crammed with shared misgivings. My American friends, all Democrats, exchange tens of emails daily. Several attended the Women’s March in Washington. We are all in danger of burn-out, so I seek to restore peace of mind.
Atlantans are preparing for what many believe is an impossibility: ascending I-75 during rush hour in time to make it to a Braves’ game in Cobb County.
For weeks fans have been stockpiling food and fuel and consulting guides – one Buckhead man has hired six Sherpas – for the treacherous trek to the top of the city’s peak traffic nightmare where breathing can require oxygen and one slip can be fatal.
“My wife doesn’t want me to go,” said Billy Waldrop. “You know, we’ve got three kids, and if I don’t make it…”
slow death roll shot
“Go find Lester.”
We were typical college kids in the late 70’s. Brief moments of intense studying, staying up way too late, eating the wrong foods, smoking and drinking too much, partying like there was no tomorrow, falling in and out of lust disguised as love, rooting for our school and wasting time. Wasting lots of time.
will it stay airborne?
“Allowing a monkey to drive a race car sounds like an amusing idea, but only to those who have never tried it.” – The Bard of Affliction
The great Airship of State had been flying for 241 years now. It wasn’t always an airliner, of course. Back when it began to function, a hot-air balloon was sufficient to hoist its machinery. As the years flew by, however, and new technologies became available, it eventually transferred itself into ever more efficient aerial transports, the better to float high above the hostile environment below …
not a sport
As I made my way down I-26, a white van jerked into my lane. He not only failed to use a turn signal, his lights were off. Both are laws in South Carolina although many drivers treat them as tepid suggestions. The maneuver left so little room I almost scraped the Trump sticker off his bumper. At a younger age I might have opted for an extended horn blast or flashed my lights repeatedly.
whatever it takes
There are many ways that young kids grow with their college experience. If you go away to school, when you’re a freshman, you can’t wait to get back home. Fall break, Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break, summer vacation … They all mean the same thing. Home. If you don’t have a car, you try to arrange a ride or you check the bus and train schedules. Whatever it takes …
hurts our hearts
I imagine what happens next to that march from protozoa to ape to man – just a poof of dust from the increasing implosion of facts-to-lies-to-violence based on nothing but a madman’s brain, and his cunning associate (perhaps with an “s” – just in case there’s somebody else in the room with Bannon?). I wonder, daily, about how much of the planet will still be here …
right to bear cars
Running down pedestrians with your car is wrong. Whether the act is intentional or negligent, running down pedestrians is absolutely wrong. That ethical absolute extends to encouraging others to commit such an act. Unfortunately a couple of Republican lawmakers in Tennessee want their state courts to take a much more permissive approach to vehicular murder and assault. Tennessee State Representative Matthew Hill and State Senator Bill Ketron have introduced…
In 1998 my husband Wilton and I decided to take a trip to Kenya, which fulfilled one of my lifelong dreams of being able to see wild animals in their natural habitats. I had read so many books about life in the jungle and loved Isak Dinesen’s book and the movie Out of Africa. I enjoyed trips to the zoo to see elephants, lions, and giraffes, but always longed to see them in Africa as they were in Born Free.
Remember how Donald Trump spent much of the 2016 election campaign touting his ability to negotiate better deals for the United States? For all the bombast about trade with China and nukes in Iran, and cheering from supporters who probably couldn’t find either country on a world map, it turns out that the international agreements he intended to renegotiate and perhaps junk altogether were with our allies and not our rivals. That’s why Vice President Mike Pence was …
Southerners are said to be obsessed with their own history. It’s true, belying that old dictum that history is always written by the winners. Even now, well into the 21st century, I find myself wading into the murky waters of that Southern obsession with the past, which invariably goes back to slavery and the War.
This obsession animates the 2016 book I have just finished reading, The Making of a Racist: A Southerner Reflects on Family, History, and the Slave Trade, by historian Charles B. Dew …
awakening hearts & minds:
A conference on February 4th in Decatur, GA featured “rock star” panelists, knowledgeable, articulate, even entertaining on a subject that doesn’t readily lend itself to such. This is not a thorough review of the conference but more a collection of impressions.
A talk on Syria by jounalist Reese Erlich, a week later added further to my notes. My attendance at these events was motivated by a lack of knowledge about the situation in Syria…
commander in tweet
I admit to retreating often from the evening news, but the acts reported find me through their effects on my friends.
The physician of a friend is also my physician: he has done grafts for lymphedema on both of us. For us he is a miracle worker. Last week he told my friend that new government regulations just put in place will limit anyone to three grafts to be covered; thereafter, amputation will be covered for those who can’t pay for additional grafts on their own.
heaven help me
Two thousand seventeen has not gotten off to a good start for Yours Truly.
First, there was the dress. No. make that The Dress. It was “The Dress” instead of simply “the dress” because it is for the upcoming wedding of our youngest son, Carson, a brilliant new lawyer (takes after his father) who now calls Des Moines, Iowa, home. Carson will wed Claire Roth in Athens in April. You might recall my column on his unusual Pepperoni Proposal…
black shirts or brown?
“— mind you, the corridors of power are littered with Fascist leanings; anything to save the upper classes through disenfranchisement of the common man while allowing the common man to think you are on his side.” — Dr. Trevor Petit, a character in Jaqueline Winspear’s mystery A Lesson in Secrets
Recently, I’ve stumbled upon two articles on fascism that are chillingly relevant as political darkness envelopes the nation.
crackdown on continues
In a series of tweets and Fox News interviews, President Donald Trump on Thursday vowed to deport Area 51 aliens and answer scores of questions that have plagued the minds of millions who voted for him.
“The people have a right to know, and I’m going to tell them,” Trump tweeted. “I’ve ordered the FBI to send me all of their X-Files.”
At an afternoon press conference in Roswell, New Mexico, before a crowd estimated by the White House to exceed fourteen million …
Yesterday I attended a wondrous event: democracy in full-throated action.
Congressman Bob Goodlatte chairs the Judiciary Committee of the US House of Representatives. It’s a position of considerable power, for good or ill. Congressman Goodlatte also represents Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District, which just happens to include Harrisonburg, Virginia, where I live, the home of the national Welcome Your Neighbors movement.
Atlanta, Georgia will be closed on Monday, February 6th. I would suggest any plans you may have for doing business with anyone in Atlanta on February 6 be postponed until later in the week – or maybe until the following week. All regular human activity will come to a standstill, no business will get done and hardly anybody will even be at work on Monday. You’d think that Atlanta had a full inch of snow on the ground.