Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mac Mathias

In the late spring of 1974, I was assigned as part of a team to survey some historic structures in northwest Washington near the Potomac River. One afternoon, we were having lunch in a small park across the street from the posh and infamous Watergate complex. It happened to be a brilliant day with plenty of welcomed sunshine and a fresh breeze that convinced several people to enjoy an outdoors break. Our team was easily identified by our uniforms and it wasn't unusual for passersby to ask what we were doing or inquire about the history we were surveying. One of them happened to be a well-dressed man who appeared to be waiting for an appointment across the street where any number of Washington shakers and movers lived and worked for at that time Watergate was THE place to see and be seen.

Our well-dressed inquirer was different from most because he introduced himself immediately. He was Mac Mathias. I think all of us made the connection after looking at him a bit closer. To us, he was Senator Charles "Mac"Mathias from Maryland. For the next half hour, we conversed a bit about Watergate, Nixon's situation, the current political unpleasantness, and the greater Washington experience, but he always brought the talk back to us and our task. The conversation was about everything but him.

Mac Mathias was well-known in the Senate as an independent-minded, liberal Republican. Many associates, pundits, and other political types identified him as the consummate maverick. His appeal to both sides of the political aisle moved Mike Mansfield, Majority Leader of the United States Senate, 1961-77, and a Democrat, to call Mathias the "conscience of the Senate." But being a builder of bridges in a often polarized political body can go only so far, and his liberal posture and outspoken demeanor kept him from seats of serious power in the Senate (1968-87). Still, he had a significant impact on legislation and policy, particularly in civil rights and conservation.

In my dozen or so years in and around Washington, I had several passing encounters with "the elect" and their appointees on and off the job. Most of the time, they were ordinary people with families going about their everyday lives. Mac Mathias was s serious local, coming from a well-known and highly respected political family in central Maryland. When I spent my half hour with him in that park next to Watergate, he was just being "Mac." There's a good chance that was his preferred mode, and I would have enjoyed knowing him better because of it. I wouldn't have agreed with him on many points, but he would have gladly given his all for my right to disagree. When he died earlier this week, an empty and darkened Senate Chamber likely felt his passing with a creaking desk, a moving curtain or a rustling paper on an empty desk. He was among the last of the mid-century northeast Republicans and one of the best. Today, I think much of the Washington elect is all about position, power, preference and privilege. It is a far cry from my time in that beautiful city. There's no question what a joy it would be to have more "Mac" in the Senate these days.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Open Political Revolt In The Suburbs

As a geographer, I'm interested in any political analysis linked to the American landscape. Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) has posted such an analysis by Joel Kotkin in the magazine, The American, published by the American Enterprise Institute. The opening sentence:

A year into the Obama administration, America's dominant geography, suburbia, is now in open revolt against an urban-centric regime.
Massachusetts voters have sent a huge message to democrats and Democrats from sea to shining sea. So far, the White House response doesn't give us much hope that they're listening to the voice of those who determine the political landscape. I am amazed by that, but not surprised.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


From the Baltimore Sun:

A longtime tribute to Edgar Allan Poe may have come to an end with the absence of the "Poe toaster," who for more than half a century has marked the poet's birthday by laying roses and a bottle of cognac at his original grave site.
There is a disturbance in the force.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Another Global Warming Debacle

William Katz writes about another major blunder in the climate change debate. This time, it's a retraction of a UN report that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035. He writes:

Articles like this are useful, and represent what journalism should be - a search for the truth. We need more of them, and we need a series about the strange things that go in the "global warming" industry.

King's Days

Power Line's Scott Johnson has reposted his 2005 tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. Don't let this day pass without reading it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Resilient Communities

Most of us are familiar with paradigm shifts and tipping points. In fact, we in the United States could very well be living in the midst of a huge political paradigm shift in response to the Obama presidency. But what kinds of shifts could be on our social horizon? John Robb - counter-terrorism specialist, technology analyst, entrepreneur, deep thinker - has generated great interest with his view of the future, one we may interpret as full of challenge and opportunity. The psychiatrist blogging as Shrinkwrapped explores Robb's interest in resilient communities, constructs that Robb says may follow periods of great disruption in our delicately balanced world systems.

I have a feeling John Robb is a name that will be heard more and more in our future.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Seasonal Minimums

For a bit more than three weeks, we've been adding a few more seconds of sunlight to each winter day. Those seconds don't translate into perceptible warmth for us though I'm sure somewhere in the physics of the great Earth Engine, a tiny needle on an invisible gauge has registered an uptick. For those trembling in the ten-day cold penetrating life in east metro Atlanta, that uptick has real meaning for this is the climatological rock bottom for winter in these parts. Both historically and statistically, the only way for the thermometer is "up" until the dog days of summer mark the opposite of the heat cycle.

These brilliant, cold, blue-sky days are best reserved for perusing seed catalogs and cultivating imaginary gardens. I do these tasks best sitting in my Florida room in an overstuffed rocker. There, tired eyes may lift from the page or be distracted by peripheral movements to focus on the sun-drenched woods beyond the patio. In a matter of weeks, I'll be out there prepping for the growing season and, with some luck and reliable climatology, soon watching those gardens in my mind bloom into reality. I've heard some say that I should be more productive these days, if not all days. That may be true, but to be productive you sometimes have to stop producing and quiet yourself. And quieting oneself is not as easy as you might expect. In quietness, you occupy a netherworld between consciousness and unconsciousness. Like the seeds I hold in my hand, it contains great potential. With proper temperatures, water and nutrition, the productivity will follow. Though I look forward with enthusiasm to the warmth and the garden, the seconds will pass in their own time. Time doesn't care, and why protest this a priori dimension, a mystery from the deep beyond. No worry here. Warmth in due time, yes, but for now, these coming days are the quiet.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hanson Ascendant

David Hogberg, writing at, acknowledges that Victor Davis Hanson seems very good at contemporary political analysis. Pretty good historian, too.

Source: Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Here Comes National Socialist Health Care

Powerline's John Hinderaker reports on a Breitbart post that Democrats are dropping the public option from their health care legislation. In its place is "top to bottom" regulation of the private industry, otherwise known as national socialism. Here's the Powerline link with more on the story and a link to the Breitbart report.

Friday, January 8, 2010

1930s Deja Vu

NRO contributor Clifford D. May finds some disturbing similarities between then and now in a biography of Winston Churchill by the historian, Paul Johnson.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

More Breitbart: Less Ignorance

Andrew Breitbart has opened a new front in the information wars with his blog, Looks like more required reading for those who want to be informed. I wish him and Michael Walsh, his editor-in-chief, well as they pursue journalism in terms of "the glory days of American newspapers."

Friday, January 1, 2010

Light And Warmth In The Bleak Midwinter

We are in the midst of the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas and deep cold is descending on north Georgia tonight. The next week could bring us the coldest temperatures in a generation, but the warmth of the season, often contained in beautiful music, will sustain us. Here is In The Bleak Midwinter, a poem by Christina Rosetti set to the music, Cranman, composed by Gustav Holst in 1906. The performance is by the Gloucester Cathedral Choir.

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan.
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to rein.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshiped the Beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man, I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him, give my heart.

Happy New Year

Mr great uncle, George, received this Happy New Year 1910 greeting from a buddy of his in Detroit. My history sources show the previous year to be rather uneventful for the nation. Still, there's nothing wrong with wishing anyone plenty of extra good luck with a giant horseshoe. The delivery system looks promising, too.