Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Good Move, Gov. Warner

In its afternoon update for Tuesday the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported: "Gov. Mark R. Warner said this morning the clemency petition from death row inmate Robin Lovitt has been the most difficult he has considered. Warner has let all 11 prior executions during his administration proceed."

Then later in the evening came this from the Associated Press: "Virginia's governor on Tuesday spared the life of a convicted killer who would have been the 1,000th person executed in the United States since the Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976."

Gov. Mark Warner had to step in to stop this execution. OK, as a presumed candidate for president he hardly needed this. But as Virginia's governor, he still has a duty to make things right when he can. It didn’t matter whether Lovitt deserved to suffer the penalty his trial’s verdict set for him. What mattered is the justice system cheated Lovitt, however you slice it.

Warner, not an opponent of capital punishment, has proven he has no desire to undo the wisdom of the Commonwealth's judges or juries. Still, you know Warner's opponents will say he's a wimp because he stepped in. In the short run, of course they will try to make him look soft on crime, etc. This was a call that will be slammed, studied and cheered by folks who really don't care two whits about fairness.

Fine. Was it the right call? Yes.

"'The commonwealth must ensure that every time this ultimate sanction is carried out, it is done fairly,' Warner said in a statement, according to AP. 'However, evidence in Mr. Lovitt's trial was destroyed by a court employee, before post-conviction DNA tests could be done. The actions of an agent of the commonwealth, in a manner contrary to the express direction of the law, comes at the expense of a defendant facing society's most severe and final sanction.'"

Where's the Roast Beef?

"How far will it go?" asks CNN. "That's what many nervous officials in Washington are wondering as they brace for what is showing signs of becoming the biggest influence-peddling scandal in decades. An investigation that began nearly two years ago into whether lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associate Michael Scanlon bilked six Indian tribes out of $80 million now looks as though it could touch dozens of lawmakers, their current and former staff members and Bush Administration officials."

With Virginia's 7th District congressman Eric Cantor's name on the list of 33 lawmakers who reportedly received $830,000 from Abramoff's clients, and who coincidentally then helped scuttle plans for a casino to be built by rivals of the lobbyist's clients there's this tidbit: "At the lobbyist's delicatessen Stacks, Abramoff even named a sandwich after Congressman Eric Cantor at a $500-a-plate fund raiser in January 2003. (Cantor later asked the deli to switch his namesake sandwich from tuna to roast beef on challah.)"

Click here to read the story.

Modern Buttocks Need Longer Needles

As the Who, my favorite '60s Rock 'n' Roll band once sang, "I can't reach you."

Accordingly, Reuters reports: "Fatter rear ends are causing many drug injections to miss their mark, requiring longer needles to reach buttock muscle, researchers said on Monday. ...Two-thirds of the 50 patients in the study did not receive the full dosage of the drug, which instead lodged in the fat tissue of their buttocks, researchers from The Adelaide and Meath Hospital in Dublin said in a presentation to the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America."

Click here to read the rest of the short srticle.

Bush Considered Bombing NPR?

According to the Borowitz Report President Bush has been weighing some oddball options in waging the war on terror: "A new report published today indicates that President George W. Bush briefly contemplated bombing National Public Radio in the run-up to the Iraq war but was ultimately talked out of it by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. According to the report, Mr. Blair had just convinced Mr. Bush not to bomb the Arabic-language television network al-Jazeera when the president suddenly shifted gears, turning his sights on the left-leaning NPR."


Monday, November 28, 2005

Warner Calls for Milestones

With his star ascending Gov. Mark Warner made news in the Empire State on Monday, while speaking at New York's Asia Society.
The Washington Post reported: “The United States needs to set milestones for progress, not a firm withdrawal date, before it can leave Iraq, Virginia governor and prospective Democratic presidential candidate Mark Warner said on Monday. ‘This Democrat doesn’t think we need to re-fight how we got into (the Iraq war). I think we need to focus more on how to finish it,’ Warner said. ‘To set an arbitrary deadline or specific date is not appropriate...’”

Then at Daily Kos this post reacted to Warner’s remarks: “I like Warner, but this position is untenable and increasingly obsolete. The debate has shifted from whether we should get out of Iraq to when and how we should get out.”

So, Warner or Kos, which one is telling it like it is? Well, at this desk it says they both are doing their jobs just fine.

Devout lefties should forever dog the Bush administration about its twisted tactics in laying the case for war in Iraq, and for its inept prosecution of that war. Senators who feel they were duped by pickled intelligence supplied by the Bush team should demand the truth be told. Cindy Sheehan and other war protestors should carry on, as long as it takes. The list goes on.

Forcing the truth out of Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney promises to not only be sweet entertainment, it will be a civics lesson for all to take in. But if Mark Warner wants to be elected president, and it seems he does, he has to stay above the all-too-familiar blame game and remain a problem-solver of the first order.

That’s Warner's image and it’s a good one because he can back it up. On top of that, as a governor Warner has no ax to grind, or vote to explain, when it comes to Iraq. Many members of congress do, including Democrats who may be his rivals for the 2008 nomination, no matter how they voted in 2002.

Why would Warner be fool enough to wade into that inside-the-beltway pool of quicksand? Beyond that consideration, who knows if Iraq will be the issue it is today in 2008?

Prudently, Warner calls for “milestones.” That’s not only smart campaign strategy for a man who says you have to campaign/win in such a way that you can govern, it also puts steady pressure on Bush to respond: Like, what’s so wrong with setting milestones?

Bush can easily say no, again and again, to demands for an immediate unconditional pullout. He has his talking points memorized. But, assuming someone tells him the difference between millstone and milestone, can Bush really dismiss Warner's call for a realistic way to measure progress, or the lack thereof.
(Photo Credit: F. T. Rea)

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Dinner That Wasn't

Be thankful that Save Richmond is ever on the watchdog job. Now the intrepid investigators are looking at Richmond's mammoth new convention center, another of The City's build-it-and-they-will-come projects. "Turkeys," by Andrew Beaujon, asks some questions about the design and operation of the convention center that deserve answers.

"The Greater Richmond Convention Center will be empty on Thursday [Thanksgiving Day]. That’s not news; there’s a reason it loses $4-5 million a year. It’s not because there’s not an arts center across the street, by the way -- you need only read this report to know that the supply of convention center space in the U.S. far exceeds demand. That’s why enlarging the Richmond convention center was such a dumb idea. Asking an empty building to spur economic development is a classic example of Richmond strategery [sic]. So anyway, it’s more than somewhat galling to read that there won’t be a free Thanksgiving dinner at the convention center this year, because the group putting it on couldn’t swing the six large they needed to rent a facility that will otherwise go empty."

Still Got Soul

There are always so many reasons to be thankful, can we ever be thankful enough? Probably not, so it’s good that we set aside one day to count our blessings. To be thankful one has to care about something outside of one's self. As long as we take the risk to care, in spite of our despair, we have hope. Without hope we become disconnected from our context, our lives fall apart. If you feel thankful today -- Thanksgiving Day -- be glad you still can, because there are surely those who can’t manage it anymore.
Charles Bukowski
(1920-94)

Which reminds me of a wonderful line from one of Charles Bukowski’s short stories: “If you don’t have much soul left and you know it, you still got soul.”

Happy Thanksgiving Day to SLANTblog's readers. Keep the faith. Keep your powder dry and keep on truckin'.
Illustration by F. T. Rea

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

America's Costly Addiction

Consider this unusual story, as noted by Triscula in "Timing Is Everything" at Three Wheels: QUINCY, Massachusetts (AP): “Thousands of low-income Massachusetts residents will receive discounted home heating oil this winter under an agreement signed Tuesday with Venezuela [Citgo], whose government is a political adversary of the Bush administration.”

Folks in Massachusetts are probably glad the much-reported suggestion of Conservative Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson to President Bush -- that Venezuela’s President Chavez ought to be assassinated -- was not followed.

Then there's this strange tale coming from across the pond: LONDON (Reuters): “Britain has warned media organizations they are breaking the law if they publish details of a leaked document said to show U.S. President George W. Bush wanted to bomb Arabic television station Al Jazeera.”

What could possibly link a story about a South American president’s move to directly help the poor in Massachusetts and a story about Britain’s media being threatened to lay off a breaking story about an American president itching to bomb an Arabic television station in Qatar? Even if it is denied a thousand times in Washington and London, what could be the common denominator?

Oil baby! Only oil, and our costly addiction to it. Do you wonder what Robertson thinks of the idea of blowing Al Jazeera into smithereens?

In closing Triscula asks: "Remember, just a couple of weeks ago, American big oil companies were sitting in front of congress trying to justify their massive, record-breaking profits right after Katrina hit the Gulf region. Now Chavez bypasses the middle-man and looks like a hero to the working man. Love him or hate him, the guy knows how to work the room."


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

42 Years Later

For us Baby Boomers it’s not easy to get through any November 22 without being reminded of 1963, when the president was gunned down on the street in Dallas.

The gut-gnawing dissatisfaction with the official explanation of who exactly killed President John F. Kennedy, and why, left a cynical stain on an American generation that entered adulthood already suspecting its government couldn’t be trusted. Culturally, in many ways it was probably an unprecedented situation. To be sure, more reasons not to trust followed.

Cantor $31,500; Goode $1,000

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee is currently investigating the far-flung dealings of lobbyist Jack Abramoff. According to the Associated Press, among the 33 members of congress recently implicated in the burgeoning scandal, to do with casinos and who knows what else? are two Virginia congressmen -- Eric Cantor and Virgil Goode.

The two Republican lawmakers are said to have signed letters sent to the Bush administration on behalf of Abramoff’s clients shortly after the beleaguered lobbyist wrote them a check or hosted fundraisers for them. For their parts in this unraveling story Cantor seems to have done a lot better than Goode, bang-for-the-buck-wise. Cantor is reported to have raked in $31,500 from Abramoff, while it seems poor Goode only got $1,000 for whatever he was selling.

To get an idea of who exactly has what sort of clout, here is AP’s entire list of lawmakers recently linked to this investigation, in order of how much dough Sugar Daddy Jack sent their way:

SENATE
Trent Lott (R-Miss.) $92,000
Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) $82,500
Harry Reid (D-Nev.) $67,441
Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) $62,500
Mary Landrieu (D-La.) $32,000
John Breaux (D-La.) $27,500
John Ensign (R-Nev.) $16,293
David Vitter (R-La.) $6,000
(Vitter refunded these donations on 2/18/02)
Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) $2,750

HOUSE
Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) $103,500
John Doolittle (R-Calif.) $64,500
Tom DeLay (R-Texas) $57,000
Chris John (D-La.) $56,625
Jim McCrery (R-La.) $36,250
Eric Cantor (R-Va.) $31,500
Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) $29,000
Pete Sessions (R-Texas) $22,500
Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) $20,100
Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) $6,000
Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.)$4,000
Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) $3,000
John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) $2,500
Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) $2,500
Sue Myrick (R-La.) $2,000
Ronnie Shows (R-Miss.) $2,000
Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) $2,000
Melissa Hart (R-Pa.) $2,000
Sam Johnson (R-Texas) $2,000
Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) $1,750
Walter Jones (R-N.C.) $1,000
Virgil Goode (R-Va.) $1,000
Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) $1,000
Jim Ryun (R-Kan.) $500

Monday, November 21, 2005

Call of the Bull Moose?

Lowell Feld at Raising Kaine asks: 
Would a New Bull Moose Party ever have any chance of working in this country, especially given the entrenched nature of the Republicans and Democrats?
If that party sought to seize the middle ground and govern sensibly, Feld wonders if some well-known politicians would be comfortable becoming affiliated with such a party. Among them are: John McCain, Colin Powell, Jesse Ventura, Rudy Giuliani, Joe Lieberman (depicted to the left), Bill Clinton, Wesley Clark, Olympia Snowe, John Warner, and possibly even Mark Warner?

My answer is, maybe. 

Moreover, Feld is raising excellent questions and it's a good time to ask them. In my book, the effort to create a third party now, by shouldering into the largely abandoned middle ground, would be a righteous pursuit. While it would lack the usual passion of strident right- or left-wingers wearing blinders, it would have more potential to become a real player, if it ever really got underway.

By "underway" I mean this Neo-Bull Moose Party would have to field candidates and win elections on the local and statewide level before it tried to win a national election. It could have national leaders, such as a John McCain or Joe Lieberman, but the first efforts should be directed toward winning somewhere. Anywhere.

Face it: Without the focus of winning specific elections, third parties look too much like blustery flocks of poseurs to John Q. Public, who doesn’t follow politics avidly. But the third party that Feld wants to see would need to appeal to just such a guy, or it wouldn't work.

This new party might want to advocate letting in more sunlight on the dark role behind-closed-doors lobbyists play in directing zillions of government dollars to benefit mammoth corporations. It might call for slashing the budgets for defense and foreign aid. It could call for ending another war the USA lost -- the drug war.  It would probably have to champion campaign finance reform in a big way, calling for drastic measures to reduce the role that soul-sucking, big-budget advertising plays in so many elections. Maybe this imaginary party ought to incorporate some aspects of the thinking behind the Libertarians and the Greens.  

It probably wouldn’t take winning many elections for the buzz to make such a new political party the darling of the media, and quite attractive to many voters who are disgusted with how the two-party system has been working/not working for them.

If  the Bull Moose could win a handful of congressional races, mayoral races, state assembly, etc. in 2006, such a new political party would then have a genuine potential to grow. Hey, when you stop to think how hard the Republicans and Democrats would try to kill off such a thing and what extremes they’d likely stoop to, it already sounds like fun to me.

Illustration by F. T. Rea

Kudos to Save Richmond

The Virginia Coalition for Open Government has awarded the Laurence E. Richardson Freedom of Information Award to Save Richmond for its tireless effort to shine a light on some of the darker aspects of the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation story. Richmonders should be grateful for what Save Richmond's Don Harrison and Andrew Beaujon have contributed to the dialogue. Bloggers everywhere should take heart at what they accomplished with determination and a web site.

Meanwhile, following the shuffling of the cards that Mayor Doug Wilder has given the performing arts center business, what has Save Richmond got to say about how the new game has been played, so far? Here's what:

"For followers of the arts center saga who have been saving up tossable rotten fruit lo these last few months, I present to you a most inviting target - Martin J. Rust. Perhaps no single individual other than Jim Ukrop and poor Brad Armstrong is more responsible for the gaping hole on Broad, the lights being turned off at the Carpenter Center, and the general pervasive acrimony than is Mr. Rust."

Click here to read the Save Richmond post about the awkward departure of Rust.

It’s a mystery to me why Wilder hasn’t made a point of also recognizing the positive role that Harrison and Beaujon have played in revealing the arrogance and folly of the VAPAF's plan and its practices. Why isn't one of them on the new board devoted to picking up the pieces? Hizzoner should look again at what Save Richmond's workhorses have contributed to saving Richmond from another publicly-financed fiasco.
(Photo Credit F. T. Rea)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

'Tis the Season?

And now this late-breaking news flash from Andy Borowitz:

"President George W. Bush cut short his trip to Asia today to rush back to Washington to execute the White House turkey for its role in the leaking of the identity of a CIA officer. While the President usually pardons the turkey in a pre-Thanksgiving ceremony, Mr. Bush said that after launching an extensive investigation of his own he determined that the turkey and no one else was responsible for the leak."

Read the rest of this touching Thanksgiving piece at The Borowitz Report.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Linked to Indicted Lobbyist

While they count and recount the votes in the Virginia Attorney General race, there are some emerging details about Republican Bob McDonnell -- the leader at this writing by a scant 345 votes -- that may be making Team Elephant uncomfortable. Below is a Post story that offers some background.

The Washington Post reports:

"Two key campaign consultants for Virginia attorney general candidate Robert F. McDonnell established a nonprofit group five years ago that its director now says was used almost exclusively to secretly fund political efforts -- including one organized by indicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. McDonnell, a lawyer and state delegate from Virginia Beach, provided legal advice and his law firm did work for the nonprofit group, according to its former executive director, Robin Vanderwall. Vanderwall said he does not know whether McDonnell knew of the group's activities but said everything he did was at the direction of McDonnell's current political strategists.

"Vanderwall also has ties to McDonnell: He ran the Republican's 1999 campaign for the General Assembly. Vanderwall is now serving a seven-year prison term after he was convicted of soliciting sex from a minor on the Internet..."

There's more. Click on the link above.

Friday, November 18, 2005

CAA News

VCU's Nick George, a senior forward, was selected by the
media to be on the CAA Preseason All-Star team.
The following are excerpts of a news release from Rob Washburn of the CAA (Nov. 18, 2005):

While the men's college basketball season officially tips off tonight, the CAA has already made its presence known on a national scale. UNC Wilmington, Drexel and George Mason have combined for a 6-1 mark in three prestigious preseason tournaments, setting the stage for an exciting 2005-06 campaign.

UNCW won the eight-team BCA Invitational Tournament on Wednesday night, defeating Big Ten foe Northwestern 56-48 in the championship game. The Seahawks also posted victories over perennial Horizon League power Butler (75-59) and host Wyoming (62-59 in ot) of the Mountain West Conference. UNCW senior guard John Goldsberry was selected as the tournament's MVP.

Drexel advanced to the semifinals of the Preseason NIT after a 54-41 win at Princeton on Monday and a 72-61 triumph over Sam Houston State on Thursday before a sell-out crowd at the DAC and a national TV audience on ESPN 2. The Dragons will meet No. 1-ranked Duke on Wednesday night in Madison Square Garden and then will face either No.12 Memphis or No. 18 UCLA on Friday. Both games will be televised nationally on ESPN.

George Mason rolled past UC Irvine 79-56 in the first round of the Coaches versus Cancer Classic before giving 18th-ranked Wake Forest all it could handle in an 83-78 overtime setback. Four more CAA teams open their seasons tonight. Defending conference champion Old Dominion, which is ranked as high as No. 21 nationally, faces Georgia in the first round of the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas. Northeastern faces Brown in the opening game of the Mohegan Sun Classic, while William & Mary entertains Maine in the first game of the William & Mary Classic. Delaware plays The Citadel in Raleigh, N.C.

On Saturday, Hofstra hosts Florida International and Towson opens at home against Loyola. James Madison starts its season on Monday night with a home game against Georgetown, while VCU visits Appalachian State. League newcomer Georgia State opens on Tuesday night with a conference game against Delaware.

Banned For Life

This time of year flushes all sorts of haunts out of their hiding places. Accordingly, a serial-, or perhaps spree-killer I once knew came to mind today. The man died violently 13 years ago this month, long after I had last seen him. Click here to read a story about him. Here’s an excerpt of it:

"... the Richmond Times-Dispatch carried Mark Holmberg's sad and sensational story of Woody Drake. As usual, Holmberg did a good job with a bizarre subject. In case you missed the news: Lynwood Drake, who grew up in Richmond, murdered six people in California on November 8 [1992]. Then he turned the gun on himself. His tortured suicide note cited revenge as the motive. An especially troubling aspect of Holmberg's account was that those Richmonders who remembered the 43 year old Drake weren't at all surprised at the startling news. Nor was I. My memory of the man goes back to the early days of the Biograph Theatre (1972). At the time I managed the West Grace Street cinema. So the unpleasant task of dealing with Drake fell to me."

Pulsating Again

Update: Olsen's band will play both Friday and Saturday nights at Shenanigans (Nov. 25th & 26th).

The notice below is in from an old friend Bruce Olsen (Offenders, Flood Zone, horse whisperer, etc.), who, with his son Adrian and others, will be performing live on stage next weekend:

"Hey Now! We got the young and the old coming together again at Shenanigans on Saturday, Nov. 26th. Bruce's the Buzz Factor, Adrian and the kids. Fun for all. Love to see you there."

For some history on the older Olsen check out this Richmond Time-Dispatch article on the opening of the Flood Zone in 1986. Then here's one from STYLE Weekly that looks back on the Flood Zone's high water marks.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

McDonnell's Shrinking Lead

With the incredible shrinking difference between the vote totals of the two Attorney General hopefuls, down from 2,023 votes on Nov. 9 to just 341 votes today, a recount seems inevitable. The State Board of Elections will certify the results on Nov. 28. The losing candidate then has 10 days to request a recount.

Why all the adjustments since the original count was posted have moved the numbers to the benefit of Democrat Creigh Deeds (now with 970,507 votes) is anybody's guess. While Republican Bob McDonnell (now with 970,848 votes) has declared victory, he can't be happy about that trend.

The closeness of this year's vote for AG made me dust off a cartoon of mine that was done during the wild aftermath of the 2000 presidential election.
Click on the image to enlarge it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Return of Dr. StrangeRove

Known in some circles as Bush’s Brain, Karl Rove has escaped indictment in the on-going leaking/outing case, to do with CIA agent Valerie Plame. At least for the time being he has. Apparently Rove, who has made his living as a partisan dirty trickster since the 1970s, knows how to play the game without getting busted a little better than does poor Scooter Libby. Some readers may remember when a younger version of the ever slippery Rove was a behind-the-scenes presence for the GOP in Virginia politics, briefly, in the late-70s.
Dr. StrangeRove gasped, "It would not be difficult, Mein F├╝hrer! Nuclear reactors could easily provide, heh... I'm sorry, Mr. President."
'Toon by F. T. Rea
That Rove is back at his White House desk was evident with George Bush’s unusual remarks on Veterans Day. When I say “unusual” that means I can’t remember another president using his obligatory Veterans Day speech to savage his political opponents. It would seem that for one day Bush could have forgotten about his sinking approval ratings and just honored the contributions and sacrifices of American veterans.

But Rove, the Brain, doesn’t let opportunities go by unused. So instead of a humble and grateful Commander in Chief, we got an angry politician.

Rove's has openly acknowledged that a key inspiration for his career in politics was Ohio political boss Mark Hanna, who was President William McKinley’s brain in the day. Writing for Slate, Jacob Weisberg penned a nice piece on Rove and his revealing fascination with Hanna on Nov. 2:

“...McKinley was an affable, none-too-bright former congressman when Hanna helped elect him governor of Ohio. In 1896, Hanna raised an unprecedented amount of money and ran a sophisticated, hardball campaign that got McKinley to the White House. One could go on with the analogy: McKinley governed negligently in the interests of big business and went to war on flimsy evidence that Spain had blown up the USS Maine. The key to McKinley's political success was the alliance Hanna forged between industrialists like himself, who provided the cash, and workers, who provided the votes. In Rove's alliance, the rich provide the cash, and religious conservatives provide the votes.”

What Karl Rove believes in, or wants in the long run -- other than raw power itself -- is anybody’s guess. The Hanna link is a nice piece of history, but when I think of Rove, I imagine him sitting behind the president in meetings, speaking in the campy German accent Peter Sellers used in the title role of "Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)." Then I can almost hear Dr. StrangeRove whispering warnings in Bush’s ear about a “mine-shaft-gap.”

Flicker

This came in from James Parrish of Richmond Moving Image Coop:

This is your two-week, advance notice, heads up about the next Flicker on Wednesday, November 30, 8 p.m. at Plant Zero Art Center (0 E. 4th Street, off Hull just south of the 14th St./Mayo Bridge). Admission is $3 at the door. The Plant Zero Cafe will be open and serving beverages and light snacks. Mark you calendars, make mental notes, place post-its all over the place -- whatever it takes to remember to come out for this bi-monthly showcase of films by local, regional and sometimes far-flung filmmakers. The bottom line is these are ultra-independent, low- to no-budget, home made films. If you like your films slow-cooked, Flicker is for you!

I have a few slots left if anyone has a Regular 8, Super 8, 16mm, Super 16mm or 35mm film to show (we can screen on� all formats but the 35mm plus films that have been transferred to VHS, DVD and miniDV). Let me know ASAP if you want a slot -- (804) 232-7642.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Bright Future for Donkeys?

That Sen. George Allen's enthusiastic backing on the stump and in commercials didn't seem to help Jerry Kilgore much is well worth noting. Moreover, it should encourage those Democrats thinking of running against Allen in 2006.

If Virginians get the sense Allen is running for reelection to the US Senate, only to pick up and start running for president immediately after the 2006 election, it might not sit all that well. Remember when then-Governor Doug Wilder flirted with a presidential run in 1992? He was roundly criticized from every direction. Virginians generally want their elected officials to do the job they were elected to do, and not look beyond the state line in the middle of a term in office.

Which is exactly why Gov. Mark Warner is being smart not to run against Allen, if Warner really means to run for president in 2008. Obviously, it would be a killer to lose. Even more important, should Warner defeat Allen, he would look like just another cynical politician to begin running for president the very next day. Sincerity is Warner’s strong suit, image-wise. He’d be crazy to do anything to undermine that perception of him.

Allen won't be easy to beat, but as long as he's tied to Bush policies he's carrying a load that will slow him down. If Allen turns his back on Bush, he then has to fear Karl Rove. Uh, oh. Speaking of fear, Allen's handlers already know that they have much to fear from a sharp Democrat with the backing of Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. I wonder if Congressman Bobby Scott is considering such a run.

Vintage Kaine

This link will take you to a piece about Governor-elect Tim Kaine I wrote for Richmond.com in 2000. Out of curiosity I went back to read that five-year-old article, just to see how much Kaine seems to have changed, or not, since his days as mayor of Richmond. Now the reader can decide the same.

"...Having been favorably impressed with his performance as mayor of Richmond, I was curious about his plans. To get some answers, and to get a feel for Kaine as a player, I asked him to set aside some time to meet with me and spend a few minutes talking politics. The busy councilman/attorney was kind enough to agree to get together on what is familiar turf for me -- the Baja Bean at Friday happy hour."


Saturday, November 12, 2005

Denial Won't Abolish Torture

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. answers President George Bush’s preposterous assertion, “We do not torture.”

“...In the name of fighting terror we have terrorized, and in the name of defending our values we have betrayed them. We have imprisoned Muslims in America and refused to say if we had them, why we had them or even to provide them attorneys. We have passed laws making it easier for government to snoop into what you read, whom you talk to, where you go. We have equated dissent with lack of patriotism, disagreement with treason.

“And we have tortured.

“Yes, Bush says we don't do that kind of thing but, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, who you going to believe, him or your lying eyes?”

Click here to read the excellent piece.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Kaine Wins First Post-Katrina Election

by F. T. Rea

Tim Kaine’s resounding victory put smiles on a lot of faces in Richmond's Fan District on the sunny morning after. People on the street were smiling, waving and giving thumb's-up signs to one another like the Redskins had won the Super Bowl, or perhaps a particularly tedious spell of bad weather just ended.
(Illustration: F. T. Rea)
For many depressed Democrats, coast-to-coast, no doubt that morning’s headlines were the brightest sign they’d seen in a long time. In the interest of full disclosure the grin on my face is still there because I'm sure Kaine’s win sent a specific message to the GOP brain trust -- like it or not we are all living in a post-Katrina environment.

It took almost four whole years for an event of sufficient impact to occur to jostle the collective national psyche enough to allow for turning the page on the shock, loss, fear and anger of 9/11. At last Hurricane Katrina has done it.

Nobody is forgetting 9/11 but putting it into its historical perspective is healthy and useful. Obviously, there's a big difference between a four-pronged terror attack that kills thousands and violent forces of nature that do the same. Yet the nightmare for those unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the worst of times can be much the same. The sense of helplessness -- rampant anxiety -- shared by all for some time after such catastrophes has similarities, too.

After absorbing the shock, loss, fear and anger that Katrina set loose on the Gulf Coast Americans now do have a fresh perspective on how not to prepare for, and deal with, calamities.

In the numbing smoke-filled air of Ground Zero and the panic of the anthrax scare Republicans gained power. In the fearful public’s eye they seemed better suited to deal with the situation than did the Democrats. Plus, people naturally rallied around their president. Consequently, the political pendulum suddenly swung to the right, even further than many of us thought possible.

In the fours years since those hijackings and exploding buildings, in truth, the Bush administration's response has not worked out all that well on any front. Here we got a fear color code, now stuck on yellow. Abroad, it has created an unfolding disaster in Iraq with no end in sight. There's plenty more but it took a hurricane blowing into New Orleans to finally pull the curtain back far enough to reveal what a bad joke the Bush administration’s signature Homeland Security Department was/is -- “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”

Out of nowhere it was like an instant civics lesson for the whole country -- hey, sometimes only the government can fix it, or it doesn't get fixed.

Opportunists who’ve been getting elected by telling us how government can’t solve the problem because it is the problem, don’t necessarily know how to make government's gears work smoothly when the need arises. After years of slogans from tax-cutting, chest-beating Republicans, claiming to be devout fiscal conservatives and robust can-do guys, in the real world it has turned out they might be neither.

So, as much as anything the candidates said on the stump or in a commercial, the muddy horror show in New Orleans set the stage for a Democrat to win in Virginia. Moreover, Kaine is an unapologetic believer in the power of government to improve the lives of the people it serves. To his credit, Kaine has always been that sort of guy, he never denied it. So, it’s quite fitting that he should be the first to benefit from the old pendulum starting to return from its swing to the right.

That's exactly what I think is happening. And, I bet sniffing weasel Karl Rove can already smell it.

Of course, weasels or not, there were many other factors which contributed to Kaine’s convincing win over Kilgore. First and foremost, Gov. Warner is quite popular for good reasons. Then there’s Kaine well-earned reputation as a skilled politician who can work effectively on both sides of the aisle. Also, Kaine’s sensible core message was upbeat; it made him accessible to independents and moderate Republicans.

Republican state senator turned independent Russ Potts hammered Kilgore in the last week of the campaign: “Kilgore is the most inept, pathetic candidate to ever run for governor in my lifetime. And I believe he would be the worst governor in the history of Virginia.”

OK. Those words are not going to be forgotten soon.

On his own behalf, Kilgore didn’t present his case well. His inability to sell himself with his own words, coming out of his own mouth, hurt him, especially at the end of the run. Kilgore’s handlers chose to keep him under wraps, while they unleashed an avalanche of abrasive attack ads.

But they probably didn’t anticipate their candidate’s somewhat dandified demeanor would combine with those dark and diabolical death penalty spots to make for a witch’s brew, image-wise. And that disturbing image would creep-out, or even disgust, a lot of Virginians. The utter failure of Kilgore’s slick but over-the-top television commercials is something that will be studied behind closed doors for some time, no doubt.

As far as how much of a boost Kaine’s win will give to Mark Warner’s presidential bandwagon, I don’t know about that, yet. It certainly can’t hurt him. Still, before the national pundits and spinners convince themselves the way Warner or Kaine won in Virginia is a formula for winning elsewhere, they should look more deeply into the Old Dominion’s political history. The schism in the Virginia Republican party that facilitated both victories for the Democrats has been around for a long time. Ask Ollie North or Mark Earley about the vestiges of the Mountain Valley Republicans.

Post-Modern Blue State and Red State thinking aside, tradition is still big in Virginia. So, for the experts to figure out there's this: For the eighth election in a row Virginians have voted-in a governor of the opposite party from that which controls the White House. The string goes back to 1977, when Republican John Dalton was elected governor while Democrat Jimmy Carter was the president.

What does the win in Virginia mean for the rest of the nation? Smile, the post-Katrina pendulum swing has just started.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

AP: Kaine Wins

Shortly after 9 p.m. the Associated Press reported: "Democrat Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine won the Virginia governor's race Tuesday, soundly defeating Republican Jerry Kilgore in a contest for a GOP-leaning state that was closely watched by political analysts for signs of the public's mood ahead of next year's midterm elections."

Thus, for the eighth time in a row Virginians have elected a governor from the opposite party from that which won the White House the year before. It goes back to 1977. For more on this year's numbers in the statewide races go here.


Having No Dog in the Fight

A. Barton Hinkle reveals what may be the greatest missed opportunity of the 2005 gubernatorial campaign: With all of the expensive experts Tim Kaine and Jerry Kilgore had talking in their ears during the race, neither man has a pet dog we all know by name. It gets worse. One owns a cat and the other a guinea pig. What were they thinking?

"...Here's a late-breaking datum that might tip the balance. It comes from an unimpeachable source, and is bound to start a lot of arguments around the kitchen table. But it deserves an airing before the voters cast their ballots. Tim Kaine does not own a dog. Neither does Jerry Kilgore. Of the three candidates, only Potts has a dog -- a golden retriever named Maggie. This revelation, courtesy of Family Dog Digest, ought to shake up the race and put a few more percentage points in the Potts column."

Click here to read Hinkle in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Five Weasels!

This image, the infamous Weasel Meter, is but a small part of the pro-Kaine propaganda available over at Raising Kaine, a web site utterly devoted to electing Tim Kaine as Virginia's next governor. If you're looking for reasons to take the time to vote for Kaine, or against Kilgore, they've got plenty for you to consider. More than you'll need. By the way, five weasels is as high as the Weasel Meter goes.

At last, on election day the hammering attack ads, the endless-loop talking points and the chattering opinion polls go quiet; they are history.

Question: Now, after four solid years of this campaign to replace 2001's winner, who's going to win this time, for sure? Answer: The ad agencies, the hairdo consultants and the pollsters. For that bunch the next gubernatorial campaign begins tomorrow. So, don't pack up that Weasel Meter yet.

SurveyUSA: Kaine by 9%

The Results of SurveyUSA Election Poll #7474
Geography Surveyed: Virginia
Data Collected: 11/04/2005 - 11/06/2005

Kaine 52%
Kilgore 43%
Potts 3%
Others/Undecided 2%


You Write the Caption

How about we take a short break from worrying about which campaign -- Kaine's or Kilgore's -- has issued the more bogus dirty tricks handbills in the last few days and focus on yet another bubbling brouhaha. The cityscape picture above was snapped by yours truly on the afternoon of Jan. 13, 2005 at the corner of 7th and E. Broad Streets in Richmond, VA.

Now let's play a little game in which we select the best caption(s) to run under the photograph. Readers are invited to use the comments capability of this site (see the bottom of this post), or to send an email. (By the way, restaurant owners wondering what’s up with all that meal tax money that’s been fronted by us? are particularly encouraged to play the game.)

How would you best describe what the photo depicts?

A. It shows the VAPAF-ordered demolition of the old Thalhimers department store, leading to the area being labeled as that “hole in the ground.”

B. It shows taxpayers’ money being used to further a scam, leading to the area eventually coming to be referred to as the “scene of the crime.”

C. Substitute your caption that says it better.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Donkeys Smile at Polls

Too close to call is still the operative phrase for the Virginia gubernatorial race, but the good news for the Kaine camp is the numbers are trending its way. It's hard to believe anyone who really plans to vote can't see clear differences between Kilgore and Kaine, and could be "undecided."

Still, it seems undecideds who do end up voting usually ride with whatever is the 11th hour trend. Do they feel the vibe and want to watch their picks win the game on TV later?

Rasmussen Reports (Nov. 4) "Kaine has clearly benefited from his relationship with current Governor, Mark Warner. Warner continues to hold a 72% Job Approval Rating in the current poll."

Kaine 49%

Kilgore 46%
Potts 2%

Mason-Dixon (Nov. 4) "Potts said, 'Kilgore is the most inept, pathetic candidate to ever run for governor in my lifetime. And I believe he would be the worst governor in the history of Virginia.'"

Kaine 45%
Kilgore 44%
Potts 4%

Friday, November 04, 2005

Karl Rove's Dying Dream

Under the banner of Slate, Jacob Weisberg's brief and sharp analysis of the way President Bush has painted himself into a corner is a must-read. Here's a sample:

"The problem has become clear with Bush's difficulties in filling Sandra Day O'Connor's slot on the Supreme Court. The Harriet Miers nomination was an attempt to satisfy both the militant conservative base and the eternally moderate American electorate. With the Alito nomination, Bush has acknowledged that splitting this difference is impossible. Faced with a choice, he has chosen, once again, to dance with the ones who brought him. But by appointing a superconservative, Bush risks propelling his increasingly beleaguered administration even further toward the right-hand margin—a place where his party cannot win future national elections. Bush aims to be the Second Coming of Ronald Reagan. But he has never understood the genius of Reagan's method, which was to placate the religious right without giving in where it mattered."

Weisberg's piece, subtitled "So much for the permanent Republican majority," also offers some interesting observations about much-in-the-news Karl Rove and his yesteryear hero -- the 1890's Ohio pol, Mark Hanna. This is good stuff. Click here to read the piece.

The Bad Letter

by F. T. Rea

Three years ago then-Attorney General Jerry Kilgore signed a letter that for the recipient certainly added insult to injury. Ostensibly, it was an ordinary letter of reference. But since in this case the product was worse than useless to the man who had just been laid off, Jack Richardson, it was mostly galling. Eventually, he could laugh at it.
Note: If the reader clicks on the image of the letter it will enlarge for easier reading.

Then look at the glaring goofs in the letter -- what’s with those two He’s, with the capital “H.” Then there’s the blaming of Gov. Mark Warner for the deed. What’s that supposed to mean -- the Devil/Democrat made me do it? On the other hand, where’s the recognition of Richardson’s job-well-done? Moreover, looking at it, who would believe that letter was actually from the Attorney General? Richardson was given five of them, all identical and individually signed. (The image above is from one of those five; it is authentic. By the way, there is nothing on the page below the signature, no typist’s initials, etc.)

So, my questions to candidate Jerry Kilgore are simple: Who wrote that bad letter, and why in the world did you sign it?

Richardson, who had been the AG’s mailman for 22 years, did his job through rain or shine as Republicans and Democrats came and went. Then, in Kilgore’s first year in office, Richardson was let go with no notice and forced into an early retirement with truncated benefits.

On top of that, Richardson’s severance pay was slashed, too!

The AG coldly claimed his office’s staff was technically not covered by the standard rules which apply to employees of the Commonwealth. Over 50 other employees were given the same rough treatment. I don’t know what sort of letters they got. A group of the laid-off got together and explored their legal options. Richardson went to a few of their meetings. Although their cause seemed righteous, in the end it all fizzled.

OK, let's ask a few more questions that sorely need asking: Who, Republican or Democrat, actually says Kilgore did a good job as AG? Think about it, have you ever heard any lawyer say he ran the AG's office well? Other than right-wing diehards, that could never vote for any Democrat, who really wants Jerry Kilgore -- moustache or not, a 24-carat weasel in a suit -- to be governor of Virginia for four years?

Note: Since this post originally went up last month (I moved it up today), two people who once worked in the AG's office have told me they've checked and found the others who were laid off along with Richardson -- most were also long-serving staffers -- received a similar bad letter.

-- 30 --

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A Stab at Political "Sincerity"

To bolster the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s endorsement of Jerry Kilgore, Editorial Page Editor Ross Mackenzie (depicted on the right) used the top of today’s OpEd Page to hurl scorn at Tim Kaine’s integrity. In his almost sneaky piece Mackenzie served up the same twisted/cynical argument that Tom DeLay’s attorney Dick DeGuerin successfully employed down in Texas to have a judge replaced -- claiming the judge can't do his job because he has some history of supporting Democrats in elections.

So, does this mean a judge who is a Yankees fan should not hear a case in which the defendant is a Red Sox fan? If you went to Tech you can't be trusted to sit on a jury if the defendant went to UVA?

Mackenzie and DeLay are both using the old argument-against-the-man ploy; they assert that anything their opponents say will be tainted because of who they are. They say their enemies, Democrats, by their nature are simply incapable of being honest.

Well, I say both men are looking at the world through a win-at-any-price-tinted lens. In matters political this partisan tint prevents either of them from recognizing the difference between honesty and Shinola; they assume everybody cheats to win.

Consequently, these apes see, hear and speak right-wing "talking points" no matter what happens on any given day. As high-profile Republicans line up for their days in court in DeeCee and Texas -- charged with crimes of dishonesty -- here in Richmond Mackenzie stoops to decry Democrat Tim Kaine’s lack of “sincerity.”

“...Kaine also tries to present as the centrist he is not. He is a liberal (my emphasis), no question. ...If elected, would Kaine revert to the views he has held on a death penalty moratorium and tax referendums? Would he follow through on what he insists are his convictions -- or not? Only when elected, and too late, would Virginians learn what he really believes?”

Mackenzie’s attack on Kaine is at best boilerplate. Maybe the editor should go back to writing his so-called Random Walks, rants about unconnected topics in which he flings yesterday's blather in every direction, trying to be funny.
(Illustration by F. T. Rea)

Why Now? Why Not?

(Photo Credit: F. T. Rea, at Wilder's victory party last year.)
Yesterday, Richmond 's rather free-spirited mayor, Doug Wilder, finally got around to endorsing his fellow Democrat Tim Kaine in the too-close-to-call gubernatorial race. Did Wilder's better-late-than timing mean this? Or, perhaps it was that? Who knows? The other Democrats on the statewide ticket were left to fend for themselves. And, the beat goes on...

Labels That Don't Stick

In the contemporary political game when players call themselves, or their opponents, “liberals” or “conservatives,” sometimes they are jerking you around by what they think are your habits. Labels are easy, sometimes too easy. With an election on the horizon in Virginia please read F. T. Rea's 2004 OpEd in STYLE Weekly.

"In 1991 a radio news story described a political brouhaha in Russia between the ascending free-market style reformers and the old guard, the stubborn communists -- who were going out of style faster than a Leningrad minute. No, make that a St. Petersburg minute. The report labeled those clinging to the Soviet system as 'conservatives' and those in the process of sweeping them out of power as 'liberals.' When considered in light of the familiar Western view of matters political -- capitalists on the right vs. socialists on the left -- the role reversal of this situation’s fresh context was striking and amusing."

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Coverup Worked!

Writing for the Washington Post, under the headline, "What the 'Shield' Covered Up," E. J. Dionne, Jr. asserts that timing is everything, once again. By creating an oilslick and smokescreen which delayed the heavy indictment that finally landed on I. L. 'Scooter' Libby -- from October 2004 to October 2005 -- the Bush administration may not have gotten what it wanted. But it seems likely it got what it needed.

Last year George Bush faced and won reelection well before having his Vice President's hidden methods -- which appear to have been ruthless and truthless, when it came to his war policy for Iraq -- questioned under oath for public consumption. Now, does Libby already know he has a presidential pardon waiting for him when he needs it?

"...In his impressive presentation of the indictment of Lewis 'Scooter' Libby last week, Patrick Fitzgerald expressed the wish that witnesses had testified when subpoenas were issued in August 2004, and 'we would have been here in October 2004 instead of October 2005.' Note the significance of the two dates: October 2004, before President Bush was reelected, and October 2005, after the president was reelected. Those dates make clear why Libby threw sand in the eyes of prosecutors, in the special counsel's apt metaphor, and helped drag out the investigation."

*

Update: Click here to read Sen. Harry Reid's stirring Nov. 1 address which called for a secret session of the Senate:

“This past weekend, we witnessed the indictment of I. Lewis Libby, the Vice President’s Chief of Staff and a senior Advisor to President Bush. Libby is the first sitting White House staffer to be indicted in 135 years. This indictment raises very serious charges. It asserts this Administration engaged in actions that both harmed our national security and are morally repugnant. The decision to place U.S. soldiers in harm’s way is the most significant responsibility the Constitution invests in the Congress. The Libby indictment provides a window into what this is really about: how the Administration manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its actions.”