A lesson on Mercury in retrograde for dummies

7 Hey, you! Yeah, you, the one holding this issue of Up & Coming Weekly in your soon-to-be ink-stained hands. Astrologically speaking, troubles are heading your way. Consider this column a warning. A word to the wise, so to speak. Do not make any major decisions in the next couple of weeks.

To quote the greatest astrologer of our times, Creedence Clearwater’s John Fogerty, “I see a bad moon a-rising/ I see trouble on the way/ I see earthquakes and lightning/ I see bad times today.”

Beware, Mercury is about to slide into retrograde. Right now, you are probably asking yourself, “Self, what is Mercury in Retrograde, and why should I care?”

Fortunately, for both the readers of this column, Mr. Science has the answer. Nothing less than The Wall Street Journal had a front-page article on the effects of Mercury in retrograde written by their crack astrology reporter Stephanie Lai. If The Wall Street Journal says it, I believe it, and that settles it.

Today, Mr. Science will examine astronomy and its ugly cousin, astrology. Trigger warning: If you believe in science or astrology, do not read this column as it contains potentially disturbing content that may be disconcerting to sensitive souls. Go to your safe place and have a cookie instead. Throw away this paper and begin whimpering.

Mercury in retrograde occurs when Mercury seems to reverse its orbit and move backward in relation to the Earth. While Mercury doesn’t really go backward to Earthlings, it appears to do so. It turns out appearances can be deceiving. When Merc (as his friends call Mercury) goes into retrograde, bad luck peaks on Earth. We are about to enter a Merc in retrograde phase in the dangerous period between May 10 and June 2. If you don’t floss the teeth you want to keep during that period, your friends will call you Gummy.

Ms. Lai’s article cited a number of Earthlings who had bad experiences in prior retrograde periods who blamed their ill fortunes not on the Bossa Nova but on retrograde. The financially prudent thing to do is to postpone trips, decisions and gambling junkets during retrograde. To be extra safe during retrograde, follow Larry David’s advice in “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” go to bed, pull the quilt over your head and sob quietly until retrograde passes you by.

What do you get when you mix astrology and medical science? Take a look. Back in medieval times (not the one at Myrtle Beach) but rather the 14th Century, Europe and Asia played host to the bubonic plague. The Black Death ultimately killed about a third of Europe’s population. A bad time was had by all. French King Phillip VI wanted to know what was causing this disaster, so he appointed the best and brightest minds at the University of Paris in 1348 to cipher out the cause. And cipher they did, producing “A New Study,” which pinned down the cause of the plague.

Forty-nine of the smartest doctors of their time put on their thinking hats to discover the origin of the Black Death. They were able to pinpoint the creation of the Black Death in their official report, the “Paris Consilium.”

And wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before the King? They found the Black Death was born on March 20, 1345, when there was “a triple conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars in the 40th degree of Aquarius.” If you can’t trust the finest medical minds of the time, who can you trust?

Medical science and astrology were joined at the hip during the medieval period, as shown by the University of Paris report. To be a great doctor, you also had to be a great astrologer. Medical science was written in the stars. Despite the best efforts of the 49 Parisian docs, it later turned out that the cause of the bubonic plague was a nasty bacteria called yersinia pestis, which spread by fleas jumping off the bodies of dead rats. The infected fleas then chowed down on human hosts, giving them the plague resulting in an early exit from the land of the living. A little ivermectin would have been helpful back then.

So, with retrograde on the near horizon, what can we expect next? The early victims of retrograde appear to be the demise of CNN+, the Russians’ planned four-day war in Ukraine and Twitter’s battle with Elon Musk.

Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of Mercury? As the Former Guy would say, “Stay tuned.”

Have we learned anything today? Alas. Once again, not so much. This column is really a waste of your time. Creedence Clearwater tried to warn us about Merc in Retrograde when they sang: “I hear hurricanes a-blowing/ I know the end is coming soon/ I fear rivers overflowing/ I hear the voice of rage and ruin.”

Moral: If you are not going to hide under a quilt until Mercury in retrograde passes, at least carry an umbrella. As the Morton Salt Girl says: “When it rains, it pours.”

Freedom is a tool for progress

I’m a conservative without a conversion story. Plenty of others have such a tale — they read a certain book, had a certain teacher or somehow became disenchanted with their previous, left-leaning views.

If the conversion happened as adults, after first being politically active as a progressive, socialist or communist, they were called neoconservatives. One of the most prominent, Irving Kristol, famously defined a neoconservative as “a liberal who has been mugged by reality” and a neoliberal as “a liberal who got mugged by reality but has not pressed charges.”

I only got mugged once, while working as a magazine reporter in Washington, and I was already a conservative. It was an attempted mugging, actually, because I happened to be carrying a synthesizer in a heavy case, it proved to be a handy weapon to swing, and the would-be mugger was stoned out of his mind.

But Kristol wasn’t really talking about crime as a political issue, of course, although the rise of criminality and social disorder during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s was a factor that propelled some Americans into the modern conservative movement. What bound the disparate elements of that movement together was the existence of critically important and inescapable realities — such as what the free-market economist Thomas Sowell later described as the “constrained vision” of human nature, as distinguishable from the “unconstrained vision” of would-be social engineers.

Both here in North Carolina and around the country, the modern conservative movement is an alliance of what used to be called traditionalism and what used to be called liberalism.

Traditionalists believed there are fundamental truths and virtues, either revealed by God or confirmed by millennia of human history, that ought to guide human action.

Classical liberals didn’t necessarily disagree with that premise, actually. But they elevated the principle of freedom to the top of the list — the right of individuals to make decisions for themselves above the power of the state to take their property and control their lives.

Traditionalists valued freedom, as well, but observed that individuals aren’t born as human atoms who later, voluntarily, form human molecules. We are born into families and communities, and thus into a thick and complex web of social obligations. Many traditionalists, then, defined freedom in communitarian terms, as “ordered liberty.” Classical liberals emphasized the right of the individual to make decisions, even if the results dismayed their neighbors or injured themselves.

When cultural critics, libertarians and anti-communists forged the modern conservative movement in America during the 20th century, they were reacting to the threatening rise of populism, progressivism and socialism.

It was a case of longtime rivals, traditionalists and classical liberals, forming first an alliance of mutual need and then, through fits and starts, forging a more systematic integration of their ideas.

The result wasn’t a catechism. It was and remains messy and incomplete. There are areas of disagreement and differences in emphasis. But the various strands of modern conservatism have enough in common to work together — and what they have in common, for the most part, is a belief that governmental power should be minimized so that freedom can be maximized.

Why? Because it is in the nature of humans to thrive, in the long run, when they are free to make their own decisions, rather than being compelled to comply with some central plan. The empirical evidence for this proposition is massive and constantly growing.

For example, a peer-reviewed study by North Dakota State University economist Jeremy Jackson employed the Frasier Institute’s Economic Freedom of North America Index and a set of survey data on life satisfaction.

All other things being equal, states with lower taxes, smaller budgets, and fewer regulations had a higher share of happy residents than did those with expansive, expensive governments.

My conservative colleagues and I here in North Carolina fight for freedom not as an abstraction but as a practical tool for promoting opportunity, progress, happiness and virtue. And we welcome converts to the cause.

Bid farewell to Spring and welcome a multitude of summer events

12 With the return of a full-blown Fayetteville Dogwood Festival just behind us, it’s easy to tell Spring has sprung in North Carolina. Let the outdoor everything begin!

No better way to forget the weirdest summers ever than to simply glance at what lies ahead and make new memories as we embrace all we can. April will go out in a glorious glow as Israel Houghton, Hezekiah Walker and Fred Hammond bring their Festival of Praise to the Crown Coliseum for an amazing night of Gospel music. The month of May holds plenty of promise for us all.

The annual National Day of Prayer on Thursday, May 5, unites people of faith and gives us an opportunity to come together as friends and neighbors, seeking God and the best way forward for our communities near and far. That same day, Fayetteville’s Festival Park will come alive with touring and Christian recording artists Seventh Day Slumber. As they crisscross the country on their “Death by Admiration Tour,” the band promises a high-energy evening of music meant to turn more than just heads.

The lyrics of their songs, and the message they bring on and off stage are meant to turn both hearts and minds to a future none of us control. The free concert includes tour mates Decyfer Down, Spoken and Amongst the Giants at Festival Park, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Fayetteville Dinner Theatre keeps the summer fun happening again this year with their Gates Four Summer Concert Series. After an exciting kickoff in April, the musical pump is primed and ready to deliver some of the most loved hits of the 70s and 80s with a tribute to the rocking female sister act, Heart, during a lively show on Friday, May 6. There’s an incredible lineup all summer long, making it completely worth being on the mailing list for all they’re bringing to the community indoors and out.

All of these events provide a perfect backdrop and opportunities to get together as we warm up for summer. In just a few short weeks, we’ll celebrate Memorial Day.

Our high school seniors will move their tassels from right to left as they cross the stage and receive their diplomas at Cumberland County’s Crown Coliseum. Whether it’s a trip to the beach, a flight across the country, or some of the best local entertainment ever assembled, I hope this will be a summer to remember for all the right reasons. Celebrate life, celebrate family, and celebrate the return of the most exciting season in North Carolina!

C’mon Summer … you are welcome here!

Publisher's Pen: Join the Fayetteville Can Do BETTER Campaign

4After attending the recent municipal forums, listening to the candidates on the radio and reading their social media posts, I can honestly and confidently make several assessments. For the most part, these candidates are honest, hard-working, and good-intentioned Fayetteville citizens with deep concerns for our city. Otherwise, they would not be seeking public office.

However, I question the motives of several of the newbies and a few incumbents who are vying for reelection. The current configuration of districts in our city council does not allow for a cohesive community vision. After all, because of how the nine Fayetteville municipal districts are determined, it fosters an environment that encourages, protects, and disguises laziness, neglect of responsibilities, and gross incompetence while restricting our voice in local government. For more information on this issue visit,

If history and past performance are indications of future leadership expectations, then why would anyone think these dysfunctional, uncooperative and uninformed city council placeholders would perform any differently if reelected? Tisha Waddell resigned her position in District 3 on November 9, 2022 after realizing, among other things, that it was impossible to work and achieve anything for the citizens of Fayetteville in such a hostile, dysfunctional environment. She resigned after realizing there was no path forward to improve or influence change for honest and transparent governance for all Fayetteville residents.

As we listen to these political wannabes, everyone seems to tout public safety, the unhoused, storm water, infrastructure and the need to make Fayetteville a cleaner and more attractive business-friendly city. All spewing words without substance that go primarily unchallenged by the general public. These are ambiguous talking points and sound bites void of remedies, solutions, or plans to move our city forward. They do not reflect a working knowledge of how the city government operates.

The Fayetteville Can Do BETTER campaign, funded by donations collected from citizens who want a better Fayetteville, will run through the General election on Nov. 8. The campaign has two primary objectives: To remind and encourage people to vote in the upcoming elections and let the current city-elected officials know that we see and experience what they chose to ignore every day in our city.

Up & Coming Weekly is accepting contributions to the ad campaign and photos highlighting issues in our city from the community. Please email me directly at or send them direct to Fayetteville Can Do BETTER c/o Up & Coming Weekly, 208 Rowan St., Fayetteville, N.C., 28301.

Fayetteville is a fabulous community with great potential for a bright and prosperous future, but only if we can elect leaders with integrity and a strong work ethic. Your comments are welcome and appreciated.
Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

Get to know Senate candidates before District 19 primary

On face value, our Cumberland County Senate District 19 democratic primary election between Senator Kirk deViere and challenger Val Applewhite is pretty boring minus a few misleading mailers and radio ads. Kirk and Val have similar campaign platforms just like most democrats running for State of NC senate seats. They both support increased teacher pay, Medicaid expansion, clean water, supporting military veterans, affordable housing, affordable wages and the list goes on.

The main differences I see between Kirk and Val for the upcoming democratic primary election are one is a man, one is a woman; one is white and one is black. One is a seasoned State Senator and the other is trying to become a State Senator.

I served with Kirk and Val on the Fayetteville City Council and consider them friends. Both are extremely intelligent, came prepared to every council meeting and truly cared about Fayetteville citizens. I am not personally endorsing either of them. Kirk and Val both have NC Senate campaign sites and I recommend you review them at and


I did find a few differences between Kirk and Val's voting records within archived city council meeting minutes. In 2012, Val voted four times against a voter bond referendum for Parks and Recreation projects.

2A From what I remember, Val was against the bond referendum because city staff was not forthcoming with the “all-in cost” for the bond referendum including interest costs for borrowing the money. This item reemerged in 2015, and Kirk voted yes to allow the voters of Fayetteville to decide if they want to fund General Obligation Bonds for additional parks and recreation facilities. Voters overwhelmingly approved borrowing the money in a vote of 21,323 in favor to 14,785 against.

Back in 2012 and 2013, Fayetteville was going through the Driving While Black discussions. Part of that discussion was to ask the NC General Assembly to authorize Fayetteville to form a Citizen Review Board. The first step was to adopt a formal resolution and prepare a city ordinance creating the CRB. Val voted against the creation of the CRB in November 2012 and January 2013.

The CRB came back to council’s attention in 2020 and 2021 from concerned citizens. City council reached out to our local delegation in Raleigh. Kirk introduced Senate Bills 291 and 682 to authorize cities to establish a CRB. Senate Bill 291 was only for Fayetteville while Senate Bill 682 was broader to include all cities in North Carolina.

These bills are still stuck in the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate. Senate Bill 291 can still come back this summer during our General Assembly’s short session should our city council be unanimous on this item and ask our local delegation to once again push for its passage.

Kirk and Val both ran for the Mayor of Fayetteville position twice and lost twice. Val lost her bids for Mayor in 2013 and 2015. Kirk lost his bids for Mayor in 2013 and 2017.

Kirk moved on and won the NC State Senate District 19 position in 2018 and 2020.

Both Kirk and Val are great citizens for putting their names on the 2022 democratic primary ballot. Both were successful members of the Fayetteville City Council and have voting records to examine.

Val voted to support our new multi-model center in downtown. Kirk voted to support our new baseball stadium.

Early voting begins April 28 and primary election day is May 17. Please get to know Kirk and Val before you vote if you’re voting in the democratic primary election.

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