Saturday, December 31, 2005

VAPAF, Same As It Ever Was


In an effort to stave off mounting criticism of its methods and direction in mid-September 2005 the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation announced its most visible operative, CEO Brad Armstrong (pictured left), was taking a $100,000 pay-cut. The move soon proved fruitless -- too little, way too late. In the weeks after the announcement -- amid the noisy collapse of the scheme to furiously establish a four-live-stage-complex on the former-Thalhimers block by 2007 -- Armstrong resigned, to be effective at year’s end.

Now a new group appointed by Richmond Mayor Doug Wilder is working on a Plan B for the block. Meanwhile, what about that pay-cut, which was supposed to have been effective immediately? Given all that’s happened, can we trust the VAPAF to do what it says it will do? Hasn't its math to do with public funds gone fuzzy before? Who keeps track of such things?

For some answers, click on the title -- "Still Naughty" -- to learn more about what the prize-winning watchdogs at Save Richmond have found, once again using the Freedom of Information Act. A preview is below:

“...Soon to be former VAPAF President & CEO Brad Armstrong must have counted on Chairman Jim Ukrop to keep his stocking full of goodies this Christmas - because jolly ole St. Nick wouldn’t have gone anywhere near it (coal is waaaayyy to0 expensive these days). Through documents obtained by the Freedom of Information Act, it appears that Brad, Jim & Co. are still up to their same naughty games. Despite the public pronouncement above, it appears that Brad was paid far in excess of an annualized $175,000 for at least several months thereafter.

Now, how surprised will you be if you read next week that Brad Armstrong and former-Sheriff Michelle Mitchell have been spotted together on a swank beach on a Caribbean island that has no extradition agreement with the USA? Ba-da, bing...
(Photo Credit: F. T. Rea)

Friday, December 30, 2005

Considering 2005

The reason I went to the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s web site had nothing to do with the post below about another scandalous local story in a year already steeped in scandal. No, I was on my way to finding the link to Bart Hinkle’s sarcastic year-in-review piece which ran on this morning’s OpEd page. Hinkle does a nice job in highlighting the juiciest stories of 2005. At this year's end, whew! laughing is probably the best medicine.

"...James River Park manager Ralph White was suspended without pay for unlocking gates to the park to abet early-morning bird-watching -- but the story lost some of its zing when Richmonders learned inmates of the city jail were unlocking cell doors to kill one another, which made the scofflaw bird-watchers seem somehow a trifle less menacing. Mayor Doug Wilder demanded fiscal accountability from the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation while acquiescing in his slavery museum's insufficient accounting for funds Fredericksburg gave it. His administration issued a stop-work order calling a halt to the Foundation's renovation of the Carpenter Center. Several members of the Foundation announced they had overcome so many obstacles and were making such swell progress that they were tendering their resignations."

County Official Charged With Sexual Battery

The Richmond Times-Dispatch’s web site is reporting that yet another area public official is in trouble. Here’s part of the bewildering item:

"Chesterfield County police have arrested Edward B. Barber, 49, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, in connection with the aggravated sexual battery of a minor. The police department announced the arrest of Barber late Thursday and gave few details initially, except to say the incident is not connected with Barber's job -- he is a physical education teacher at Crenshaw Elementary School in the county. The press release did not say when or how the arrest was made. Barber is charged with one count of aggravated sexual battery and one count of object sexual penetration."

Dec. 31 Update: Yesterday a blog called GOTV linked to this post and thus caused me to write the comment below, which is posted at the GOTV site:

"That this post [at GOTV] is linked to SLANTblog for the story, makes me feel obliged to comment in this space [in GOTV comments]: First, the original news story came from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, as indicated by the link I posted yesterday afternoon on SLANTblog. But by picking it up from my post, GOTV might cause a reader to assume that I have in some way endorsed the bizarre twist GOTV gave to the story.

"So, to put the record straight SLANTblog in NO WAY approves of your labeling Mr. Barber as a 'Republican,' much less a, 'Republican who hurts children,' as you did originally. Furthermore, while your 'GOTV blog regrets the error' apology may cover the silly mistake you made in your headlong rush to accuse a political opponent you know nothing about of a heinous crime, why are you failing to apologize for the outrageous tactic to use the story to tar all Republicans, in the first place?

"Have you no standards of decency?

"Rather than energize people to get involved in public affairs, your style discourages the very thing you seem to want -- to get out the vote -- because it is such a turn-off. As a guy who has been hammering Republicans for decades for their bad policies, bad execution, and so forth, I want nothing to do with your low-road way of playing politics. I hope I’m not alone."

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Remember Total Information Awareness?

Remember Admiral John M. Poindexter, a man who can make Dick Cheney seem almost warm and fuzzy? Do you wonder what ever happened to him? So does Ted Rall, as the cartoonist/commentator worries for all of us about Poindexter and his ilk -- unbridled spies peering through our windows, listening to our conversations, picking through our trash, all in the name of protecting us from enemies that conveniently will always be out there, somewhere.

"Civil libertarians relaxed when, in September 2003, Republicans bowed to public outcry and cancelled Total Information Awareness. TIA was a covert 'data mining' operation run out of the Pentagon by creepy Iran-Contra figure John Poindexter. Bush Administration marketing mavens had tried to dress up the sinister 'dataveillance' spook squad -- first by changing TIA to Terrorism Information Awareness, then to the Information Awareness Office -- to no avail. 'But,' wondered the Electronic Frontier Foundation watchdog group a month after Congress cut its funding, 'is TIA truly dead?'"

Click here to read The Return of Total Information Awareness.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Evil's Second Coming

F. T. Rea

Washing in on what Irish poet William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) might have called a "blood-dimmed tide," the specter of true evil suddenly emerged from the periphery of modern life on one particular morning. Let’s face it, for most of us, before 9/11’s transmogrifying sucker punch the notion of "evil" had a rather Old World air about it.

As the smoke of 9/11 cleared a bitter lesson was being absorbed: No. Evil never went away. It had merely gone out of style in some quarters, as a concept, because times had been so easy for so long. Absolutes had enjoyed no seat at the table of postmodern thinking.

Living in the land of plenty, it had gotten easy to avert our eyes from evil-doings in lands of want; especially doings connected to making life easier for us at someone else’s expense.

If that last sentence was a bummer, sorry, but the gasoline was relatively cheap for a long time, compared to the price in most other places. Speaking of style, little cars and bicycles may be making comebacks soon.

The last American president to get much mileage out of the word evil, itself, had to be Ronald Reagan. His "evil empire" characterization of the USSR and its sphere of influence had punch. Two decades later we have a president who sees an "axis of evil" -- an alleged phenomenon that puzzles most of the world’s leaders, or so they say.

President George W. Bush apparently has had little use for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s stalwart advice to a shaken nation then-needing a boost in confidence -- "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." Rather than urge his people to rise above their fears, Bush has chosen to color-code it.

Moreover, the Neocons around Bush have been asking us to accept the architects of 9/11 as the most evil cats, ever. Like, Osama bin Laden has made Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Idi Amin and Pol Pot look like amateurs.

Whether evil exists in some pure form, off in another dimension, is not my department. What’s known here is that in the real world evil is contagious. Lurking in well-appointed rooms or hiding in caves, evil remains as it ever was -- ready to spread, ready to use whatever grudges are in the air.

Then again, evil, like beauty, has always been in the eye of the beholder. Generally, Americans used to believe torture was beyond the pale. Now, we hear our government officials defending its proper use in prosecuting the War on Terror.

So, evil needs a context to be measured. OK. In the 1970s wasn’t it evil to deliberately dump tons of potent pesticide into the James River to make a greedy buck? Yet, once they got caught, the Hopewell businessmen who did it only received slaps on the wrists. Once it was in Virginia’s water, it turned out Kepone wasn’t much different from a bio-terror agent in the same water.

Evil?

With the news that has seeped out of the cloisters about child-molesting priests and the Catholic Church’s systematic cover-ups, whose betrayal was more evil, the molesters, themselves, or the higher-ups who hid and facilitated heinous crimes that we know full-well act as poison in our society?

Today’s evil is the same as our forefathers faced in their wars and in their neighborhoods. Evil hasn’t really changed, but technology has. With modern machines and chemicals in their hands the fanatics of the world have the potential to wreak havoc like never before. What’s changed is the extent to which the bloodlust of the world’s payback artists and would-be poobahs can be weaponized.

It’s worth noting the weapons that are scaring us the most now were developed during the arms-race days of the Cold War by the game’s principal players.

So another question arises, who’s more dangerous to civilization in the long run, the schmucks who spent their treasure to weaponize germs, or the schmucks who want to steal the same germs and do you know what? Decades ago this same scenario was worried over by some in the disarmament movement. Its scary list of what-ifs always included the likelihood that the so-called super powers would eventually lose track of a few of their exotic weapons.

Meanwhile, America is still very much a first-world land. And, many Americans are still averting their eyes from righteous grievances in third-world lands.

No doubt, the poet’s "slouching" monster in the desert is traveling on the back of technology of our own making. It is probably feeding on the pollution we’re dumping into the environment. Not to worry, while crackpots the likes of me sing the blues, the official fear color is still set at yellow.

Gus the Bookstore Cat


On Jan. 31, 2000 Richmond.com ran the first version of this story, which later was edited slightly and appeared in SLANT's Dec., 2001 issue under the title: "The Case of Gus the Cat." Although Richmond.com has purged the story from its archives, Biff Downey, who owned the same Carytown bookstore Gus called home back in the 1980s, captured it and posted the original story on his web site (click here). The text below is a little preview:

"'The place has changed hands a few times since then,' Salins smugly offered. 'The problem is each owner falls in love with the cat and keeps it. But since Gus has become an institution in Carytown, each set of new owners has to find another cat that looks like Gus. The switch is made at night in order to preserve the secret. I've seen it.'

"Before I could say 'horsefeathers,' another member of the Carytown intelligentsia, who had just walked up, spoke: 'Salins, as usual you're all wet,' said artist Jay Bohannan forcefully. 'That is not only the same cat, but Gus is, let's see, yes, he's nearly 70. That particular cat is probably the oldest cat this side of the island of Lamu.'"
(Illustration by Jay Bohannan)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Sound

Perhaps it would be a better country if everyone threw his or her hat into the ring, at least once, just to know what it's like. It's so easy to say what a candidate ought to do, given this or that bump in the road, when you're standing off to the side of the road. "The Sound," an account from my own brief life as a candidate, was published by STYLE Weekly in 2000:

"In the spring of 1984, I ran for public office. In case the Rea for City Council campaign doesn’t ring a bell, it was a spontaneous and totally independent undertaking. No doubt, it showed. Predictably, I lost, but I’ve never regretted the snap decision to run. The education was quite simply worth the price..."

Click here to read the piece.
The photo is from the 1984 campaign's launching at the City Library (photographer unknown).

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Duck Baker Live

Duck Baker is performing live at the Ashland Coffee and Tea (798-1702), 100 N. Railroad Ave in Ashland, on Friday, Dec. 23, at 8 p.m. The $8 cover is well worth it, as Baker's act is top shelf entertainment. Below is an interview that ran in SLANT last year:

Richard R. “Duck” Baker IV, an Episcopal minister's son, was born in Washington, DC in 1949 and grew up in Richmond’s Fan District. While in high school (Thomas Jefferson) he became a regular at the Cary Street Coffeehouse and played guitar in various local bands.
In 1973 Baker moved to San Francisco. His first album, “There’s Something for Everyone in America,” was released by Kicking Mule three years later.

For most of the 1980s Baker toured and lived in various parts of Europe. His act featured a variety of musical styles, which included: American rags, jazz, bluegrass and folk, plus traditional Celtic tunes, as well as his own compositions. Although Baker’s penchant for exploration has made him somewhat difficult for the critics and retailers to pigeonhole, it has earned him an intriguing niche.
A short list of musicians with whom Baker has been associated includes: Charlie Musselwhite and Jerry Ricks (blues); Tim O’Brien and Dan Crary (bluegrass); J. J. Cale (rock ‘n’ roll); Jim Kweskin (jug band); avant-gardists John Zorn and Eugene Chadbourne; legendary jazz trombonist Roswell Rudd, and, among guitarists -- Leo Kottke, John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, and Woody Mann.

To date Baker has released 15 albums and played on another 25 as a collaborator or sideman. Today the pleasantly sarcastic Baker lives as close to San Francisco as his temperament and budget can stand. Once or twice a year he performs in the Richmond area.


SLANT: What are your three favorite cities?

Baker
: Paris. How could it not be? New York; Vancouver in the 60's, or San Francisco in the 70's, or just Venice.


SLANT
: Since you are a baseball fan, with a decided leaning toward the San Francisco Giants, who are your all-time three favorite everyday baseball players from any team?


Baker
: Willie Mays; Orlando Cepeda; Barry Bonds. I know Bonds isn't very cuddly and doesn't always hustle, but I've seen him win so many great games.


SLANT
: How about your three favorite cars, which you’ve owned?


Baker
: 1981 Datsun SW. Bought for $800 with 280,000 miles, sold three years later with 340,000. The only repairs were tires and brakes; 1970 Plymouth Duster -- oh, that slant-6! The others were just wheels.


SLANT
: With war in the air, what are your three favorite feature films with war/anti-war backdrops or themes?


Baker
: Tarkovsky's "Ivan's Childhood"; Kubrick's; "Doctor Strangelove"; Renoir's "The Grand Illusion."


SLANT
: Who are your three favorite female vocalists that you’ve heard perform live?


Baker
: Betty Carter -- by a mile; Molly Andrews; Dolores Keane.


SLANT
: Name your all-time three favorite stand-up comedians?


Baker
: In the late '80s, my manager worked mostly with stand-up. In fact he ran the famous Holy City Zoo club where Robin Williams got started, and I saw and shared shows with a lot of very funny guys, including some, like Rob Schneider, who have gotten to be big names.
So, this would be a hard choice if I had to limit it to people I've seen live. Since I don't, it's going to be: Lord Buckley; Lenny Bruce; Robin Williams

SLANT
: OK, let's hear your three favorite novels, or short stories, if you prefer?


Baker
: "Joy of Man's Desiring" by Jean Giono; "Moby Dick"” by Melville; "The Sound and the Fury" by Faulkner, followed very closely by "The Crock of Gold" by James Stevens, "A Good Man is Hard to Find" (the whole collection, not just the title story) by Flannery O'Connor, "The Little Sister" by Raymond Chandler, "The Third Policeman" by Flan O’Brien, and "The Memory of Old Jack" by Wendell Berry


SLANT
: And, your all-time three favorite sandwiches -- type and from what restaurant?


Baker: Pastrami on rye from Second Avenue in New York City; Any authentic North Carolina barbecue; Ahi at the Paradise Lounge, Princeville, Kuiai, Hawaii.

SLANT: OK, to wind it up, who are your three favorite American politicians, or cartoon characters, if you prefer.

Baker
: R. Crumb's Mr. Natural; Justin Green's Binky Brown; William Douglas, not exactly a politician, but an office holder.


Wisely, Baker opted for a couple of ‘toons and one Supreme Court justice.
A virtuoso guitarist, Duck Baker is among Richmond's most effective ambassadors at-large, traveling the world to reveal the Virginia he remembers with his music and dry wit.For more information visit Duck Baker's web site.

Illustration by F.T. Rea

Half-Rubber

A recent conversation at a holiday gathering with a friend, who is a photographer and a guy I played sports with in the day, involved old friends no longer in the game. That brought up Savannah's Jack Leigh, a co-worker in my stint as the manager at the Biograph Theater. Decades later Leigh shot the "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" graveyard picture that was on the cover of the book.

From the Biograph Archives, here's an excerpt of a short piece on Leigh and a link to his gallery, where you can look at some of his lush photographs of the South:

"Jack Leigh, who died last year, was part of the Biograph’s staff in the late-1973/early-1974. He was earnest and quick-witted. Jack liked to play chess and talk about movies, and of course -- photography. In those days he was already a very good photographer. The quiet style he would use throughout his career was already evident. He authored six books of photographs, including Oystering, which featured a foreward by James Dickey.

Leigh introduced me to Half-Rubber, a three-man baseball-like game that he said orginated in his hometown, Savannah. It was played with a broom handle and half of a red rubber ball. At the time there were several vacant lots across from the theater, so one afternoon I crossed Grace Street with Jack and assistant manager Bernie Hall to try Half-Rubber.

The key to pitching was to throw the ball side-arm with the flat part down to make it curve and soar somewhat like a Frisbee. Hitting or catching it was quite another matter. The pitcher threw the half-ball in the general direction of the batter, who tried to hit it. If he missed, and he usually did, the catcher did his best to catch it, which wasn't easy either. When the catcher did catch it, if the batter had swung he was out. Then the pitcher moved to the catching position, and the catcher became the batter, and so forth.

But the best reason to play -- other than the laughs stemming from how foolish we looked -- was the kick that came from hitting it. When we connected with that little red devil it left the bat like a rocket.

Click here to visit Leigh's gallery.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

4th Circuit Stiff-Arms Bush Justice

AP reports: “In a sharp rebuke, a federal appeals court denied Wednesday a Bush administration request to transfer terrorism suspect Jose Padilla from military to civilian law enforcement custody. The three-judge panel of the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also refused the administration's request to vacate a September ruling that gave President Bush wide authority to detain 'enemy combatants' indefinitely without charges on U.S. soil. The decision, written by Judge J. Michael Luttig, questioned why the administration used one set of facts before the court for 3 1/2 years to justify holding Padilla without charges but used another set to convince a grand jury in Florida to indict him last month.”

Note: If the 4th Circuit won’t OK the Bush Justice Department’s sneaky moves, it suggests there’s no hope in any court for the argument behind those moves. The 4th, which sits here in Richmond, is considered by many observers to be the most conservative in the game. At least two of its members were supposedly on Bush’s most recent short list for appointment to the Supreme Court, one of which is that same Judge J. Michael Luttig.

OK. Given this new ruling, how long will it be before DeeCee's utmost elephantine Dick since Nixon, Vice President Cheney, blasts Luttig as a liberal activist judge?

Here's more on Judge Luttig's strong reaction to the government's position on the Padilla case: “Luttig said the administration has risked its ‘credibility before the courts’ by appearing to try to keep the Supreme Court from reviewing the extent of the president's power to hold enemy combatants without charges.” Click here to read the whole story.

Rewriting History?

We see President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney pointing their fingers and we hear them saying all sorts of things in defense of their increasingly unpopular war in Iraq. They scowl and say those who criticize the Bush war strategy’s failings are “rewriting history.” Ha! It seems once again the best way to know what the Bush administration it up to, indeed, is to listen to what it accuses others of doing.

That ploy has Bush claiming no one knew there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, while history tells us the UN’s chief weapons inspector, Hans Blitz, was saying to anyone who would listen in early-2003 that he could find none.

Bush acts as if we were all behind him in the lead-up to the invasion, but now we’ve turned on him because as it has turned out -- it looks like preemptive war is hell, too. Who knew? asks Bush.

The truth is millions of people, all over the world, demonstrated against the war in Iraq, beforehand. Yes, and the truth is Bush blew off those passionate outpourings of opposition with a smirk -- over a million were in the streets in Madrid, alone. Bush quipped he wasn’t going to listen to “focus groups.”

Well, at least he’s smirking less these days. Yes, and there were plenty of other people who put it on the record that they were totally against the launching of that war to find and seize WMDs in Iraq. Some of them dared to believe Blitz might be right. Remember, WMD's ready to go off in our faces was the reason Bush said we had to move then, not later. So, Bush simply bashed the UN as a bunch of wusses and did what pleased him.

The way the Democrats' leadership was cowed into complicity by the Bush administration in that period is one of the understandable reasons too many voters still see the donkeys -- who now bray that they were lied to by Bush, Cheney, et al -- as wishy-washy.

Still, others weren’t cowed. On January 15, 2003 a British writer, the spy novelist John le CarrĂ©, put his opposition in plain terms. Below is a portion of his hard-hitting piece, “The United States of America Has Gone Mad,” which was originally published by The Times in the UK, and subsequently reprinted in other publications. Le CarrĂ© voice was just one of millions that Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush laughed off then, and conveniently tries to forget existed now.

“America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War.

“The reaction to 9/11 is beyond anything Osama bin Laden could have hoped for in his nastiest dreams. As in McCarthy times, the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world are being systematically eroded. The combination of compliant US media and vested corporate interests is once more ensuring that a debate that should be ringing out in every town square is confined to the loftier columns of the East Coast press.

“The imminent war was planned years before bin Laden struck, but it was he who made it possible. Without bin Laden, the Bush junta would still be trying to explain such tricky matters as how it came to be elected in the first place; Enron; its shameless favoring of the already-too-rich; its reckless disregard for the world’s poor, the ecology and a raft of unilaterally abrogated international treaties. They might also have to be telling us why they support Israel in its continuing disregard for UN resolutions.

“But bin Laden conveniently swept all that under the carpet. The Bushies are riding high. Now 88 percent of Americans want the war, we are told. The US defense budget has been raised by another $60 billion to around $360 billion. A splendid new generation of nuclear weapons is in the pipeline, so we can all breathe easy. Quite what war 88 percent of Americans think they are supporting is a lot less clear. A war for how long, please? At what cost in American lives? At what cost to the American taxpayer’s pocket? At what cost - because most of those 88 per cent are thoroughly decent and humane people - in Iraqi lives?

“How Bush and his junta succeeded in deflecting America’s anger from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein is one of the great public relations conjuring tricks of history. But they swung it. A recent poll tells us that one in two Americans now believe Saddam was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Center. But the American public is not merely being misled. It is being browbeaten and kept in a state of ignorance and fear. The carefully orchestrated neurosis should carry Bush and his fellow conspirators nicely into the next election.

“Those who are not with Mr. Bush are against him. Worse, they are with the enemy . Which is odd, because I’m dead against Bush, but I would love to see Saddam’s downfall - just not on Bush’s terms and not by his methods. And not under the banner of such outrageous hypocrisy.

“The religious cant that will send American troops into battle is perhaps the most sickening aspect of this surreal war-to-be. Bush has an arm-lock on God. And God has very particular political opinions. God appointed America to save the world in any way that suits America. God appointed Israel to be the nexus of America’s Middle Eastern policy, and anyone who wants to mess with that idea is a) anti-Semitic, b) anti-American, c) with the enemy, and d) a terrorist.

“If Saddam didn’t have the oil, he could torture his citizens to his heart’s content. Other leaders do it every day - think Saudi Arabia, think Pakistan, think Turkey, think Syria, think Egypt.

“Baghdad represents no clear and present danger to its neighbors, and none to the US or Britain. Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, if he’s still got them, will be peanuts by comparison with the stuff Israel or America could hurl at him at five minutes’ notice. What is at stake is not an imminent military or terrorist threat, but the economic imperative of US growth. What is at stake is America’s need to demonstrate its military power to all of us - to Europe and Russia and China, and poor mad little North Korea, as well as the Middle East; to show who rules America at home, and who is to be ruled by America abroad.

The most charitable interpretation of Tony Blair’s part in all this is that he believed that, by riding the tiger, he could steer it. He can’t. Instead, he gave it a phony legitimacy, and a smooth voice. Now I fear, the same tiger has him penned into a corner, and he can’t get out.”

Click here to read the entire piece.
Illustration by F. T. Rea

The Bloody Interregnum

By F. T. Rea
Left: W. L. Sheppard’s 1870 wood engraving of the
Capitol Disaster for Harper's Weekly



With the votes for the recent attorney general election having just been recounted -- today Creigh Deeds conceded to Bob McDonnell, and that should be the end of it -- one of Richmond’s most colorful periods was brought to mind today when I paid a visit to Gallery 5. The new gallery space is on the second floor of the old firehouse (1849) at 200 W. Marshall St., across from the legendary Milk Bottle Building in Jackson Ward. It seems the Steamer Company No. 5's building played a role in what is known as Richmond's “Bloody Interregnum.” That’s according to Tom Robinson, who has maintained the Virginia Fire and Police Museum in that unique building since the 1970s, when he saved it from the wrecking ball.

The Bloody Interregnum was the name given to the politics-gone-wrong brouhaha over whether George Chahoon or Henry K. Ellyson was the lawful mayor of Richmond. When the five-year military occupation of Virginia following the Civil War ended on January 26, 1870, Gov. Gilbert C. Walker promptly appointed a new City Council for Richmond. That body in turn selected Henry K. Ellyson, publisher of The Dispatch -- forerunner to today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch -- as the city’s mayor.

However, George Chahoon, who had served as mayor during the last two years of Reconstruction, refused to recognize the validity of the process. Although the transplanted New Yorker had a considerable following around town, he was seen by Ellyson’s backers as a lowdown “carpetbagger.” After all, Chahoon had served at the pleasure of the military overlords.

When neither man would give ground, the city itself fractured. As positions solidified, the split became a chasm; the result of which created two separate city governments. There were two police departments, two City Halls, etc.. Brawls became commonplace as the supporters of both men sought to press their case on every street corner. Chaos, with gunplay aplenty, ensued.

Notably, in spite of the fact that Richmond served as the capital of the Confederacy during a portion of the Civil War, it was not without its Union sympathizers. In fact, Richmond was quite divided on the topic of secession before the war. During and after the war there were substantial elements present that could be characterized as pro-Union.

Like America’s 2000 presidential election, in 1870 the impasse found its way into court. On April 27, the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals met to hear arguments from the two camps on the third floor of the state Capitol building.

The anxious citizens shouldered onto the balcony to witness the spectacle. Suddenly it collapsed under all the weight. The balcony and spectators crashed onto the hapless below. Widely known as The Capitol Disaster, when the smoke cleared the tragedy left 62 people dead and 251 injured.

Two days later, the court reconvened at City Hall. In due time, a verdict favorable to Ellyson was returned. A month later, a citywide election took place. But no clear winner emerged from that exercise, either. This time the contentiousness stemmed from the disappearance of a ballot box from a precinct friendly to Chahoon. Same as ever, both sides traded more accusations. Although Ellyson was certified as the winner by the election board, he declined to serve because the election results were tainted, therefore inconclusive. Thus, the battle raged on.

Eventually Chahoon left town to avoid facing the consequences of several felony indictments - supposedly of a nonpolitical nature - that were heaped upon him. For his part, Ellyson grew weary of the struggle and withdrew from the race.

It finally ended on July 1, 1871, with the election of Anthony Keily as the one and only mayor of the exhausted city of Richmond. The actions of those who were most caught up in the 17 months of the Bloody Interregnum left stains on the landscape that strained relationships in Richmond for generations to come.

As a child growing up in Richmond, I heard adventure tales from my grandfather about this bizarre time. He claimed he was told by his salty old Uncle George (who was a sheriff, among other things) that most men in Richmond carried guns on the street in those wild days, much like what we've see in western movies. All of which makes today's local political scandals and battles seem rather tame.

Robinson -- whose daughter Amanda Robinson is the art gallery’s executive director -- said a city policeman was shot to death in the firehouse in 1870, while defending Ellyson’s camp from an attack by backers of Chahoon. Meanwhile, Gallery 5 appears to be an up-and-coming force being noticed by art lovers and nightlife aficionados alike. It's quite a lively scene on a First Friday.

-- 30 --

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Enjoying the Moment

An outdoor concert in Shockoe Slip.
Working as a freelance photographer I’ve covered various events/stories for publishers over the years. Lots of times only one photo was used. Many times the pictures I really liked the best weren't selected because another one told the overall story better. As a rule I’ll shoot 20, knowing only one or two will make the final cut.

Well, the last series of photos I did in this space (see the Tacky Lights post below) worked out -- I actually got good feedback! Hey, and that’s all it takes.

So, here's another series. For this presentation images the public mostly missed, taken during the last year or two, have been used. Once again in spirit of the season, such as it is -- when fighting off despair is my top priority -- here are nine looks, random shots from the field, depicting Richmond females enjoying what they are doing:
The right hat -- maybe? -- at Carytown's Watermelon Festival.

The official vote-watcher at the precinct.

Doing the job at Richmond Pottery.

Write your own caption for this one.

Regan performing on Brown's Island.

Doing the job at the Siegel Center.

Did you know the local SPCA has Happy Hour parties?

A High on the Hog hug near the stage.

Why females? Since more photos must have been taken of women than any other subject, it seems fitting.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Mondo Sport

Update: VCU 67, Georgia St. 54

Hail to the Redskins (Washington 35, Dallas 7)! Who saw that coming?

CAA Notes:
The following report has been edited from a Dec. 19 release from the Colonial Athletic Association, which is happy to be ranked seventh among the NCAA's 31 Division I conferences in men’s basketball. That's according to the RPI ratings released today by Collegiate Basketball News.

Here's why -- six of the CAA's 12 teams are now seen as among the nation's top 66, according to the RPI (through Dec. 18). Chiefly, that's due to several impressive out-of-conference wins for CAA members. So, UNC-W is sitting pretty at No. 19; new addition to the conference Northeastern is No. 37; ODU is No.47; Drexel is No. 52; GMU is No. 55; on the heels of its comeback win over visiting Charleston on Saturday, 76-71, VCU is positioned at No. 66.

Conference Player of the Week: Isaiah Hunter (ODU), senior guard. On Saturday in Norfolk, as Old Dominion routed DePaul, 87-43, Hunter paced the Monarchs in scoring with 18 points. He also matched his career-high with nine rebounds. Northeastern’s senior guard Jose Juan Barea leads all D-I schools with 9.3 assists per tilt. That while scoring at a flashy 23.9 points clip.

VCU (5-2, 2-1 in CAA), which is undefeated at home this season, hosts the CAA's other new member, Georgia State (2-5, 1-1 in CAA), on Tuesday, Dec. 20, at noon.
Photo Credit: F. T. Rea

JibJab's Latest


The filmmakers at JibJab are still at it, again, having fun with big shots using their own clever style of political satire. This time its the year in review. Click on the art above to see the little animated movie which runs about two-and-a-half minutes.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Fan Tacky Walk to Happy Hour

Fan Tacky Walk to Happy Hour, No. 1
Writing for the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 1996 Bill McKelway offered readers a brief history of a seasonal tradition in Richmond since 1986, when the Tacky Lights Tour was launched by its creator, Barry "Mad Dog" Gottlieb.
...His fondest memories will be of the outpouring of interest when the tacky house tour began 10 years ago. "I figured I could rent one of those trolleys for about 15 people," said Gottlieb. "That filled up right away. Then I rented a bus and that filled up in an hour. Then I rented another bus and that filled up."
At one house decked out in blue lights, tour members spontaneously broke into Elvis' "Blue Christmas." At another house, they marveled at the lifelike figures on the roof wrapped in lights. "After a while, we realized that the lifelike figures were real people," Gottlieb said, laughing.
The tour of way lit up houses still goes on, although Gottlieb moved to San Francisco nine years ago. This year a group of local bicycle enthusiasts in the Fan District did their own lights tour, a knockoff of a more urban persuasion than the original, which usually focuses on the efforts of crazed suburbanites determined to outdo one another in pure wattage.

Back in 1989, or maybe it was 1990, yours truly was one of four, maybe five judges, for Mad Dog's annual stunt. We rode around in a limousine drinking beer, looking at houses made up to resemble amusement parks, or perhaps houses of ill fame in a Fellini film. I remember the all-blue-lights house that McKelway mentioned in his piece (which is a good read). By far the smallest house on the list, it scared me it little bit. So I stayed in the limo while the others went in. Gottlieb greatly enjoyed meeting the people, getting their story and so forth. Some he would see each year, other were new. At the end of the tour we judges voted and may have gone to a bar.

The photo essay that follows is my effort to get in the Christmas spirit. It is made up of a series of stills I shot in the twilight today, on my way to happy hour at the Baja Bean. Ho! Ho! Ho! It's a SLANT exclusive -- The Fan Tacky Walk to Happy Hour 2005:

Fan Tacky Walk to Happy Hour, No. 2 Fan Tacky Walk to Happy Hour, No. 3
Fan Tacky Walk to Happy Hour, No. 4
Fan Tacky Walk to Happy Hour, No. 5
Fan Tacky Walk to Happy Hour, No. 6
Fan Tacky Walk to Happy Hour, No. 7
Fan Tacky Walk to Happy Hour, No. 8
Fan Tacky Walk to Happy Hour, No. 9

Friday, December 16, 2005

Cooking Miss Buns

The Richmond Times-Dispatch is reporting on its web site that the imbroglio at the City Jail is anything but over:

"Sheriff-elect C.T. Woody and members of his transition team were turned away at the door of the Richmond City Jail this afternoon when they arrived for a pre-arranged tour. Woody and a half-dozen members of his team were met at the entrance to the East End facility at 1 p.m. by Sheriff's Capt. Brian Michaels. Woody said Michaels told him that under orders of current Sheriff Michelle B. Mitchell (pictured below in "Miss Buns Locks Up"), only Woody, not members of his team, would be allowed to tour the jail.

"'I told them I expected to tour the jail with my transition team and I'm not going in by my own self,' Woody recounted. The sheriff-elect said that he asked to speak with Mitchell, but was told Mitchell was not at the jail and had left orders with Michaels to admit no one but Woody."

The longer this situation cooks the more it smells bad. This simply can't go on. The ball is surely in Mayor Doug Wilder's court. How long will it take Hizzoner, no stranger to matters legal, to get a judge to blow the locks on Miss Buns' sealed up jailhouse? The people need to know what's going on in there.

$15,000 For What?

Paul Goldman
The linking of the already-infamous $15,000 payment -- made days before the election from the Kaine campaign to Paul Goldman -- to Mayor Doug Wilder’s late-coming endorsement is probably a distraction. Governor-elect Tim Kaine knew the mercurial Wilder’s endorsement would happen late, if at all. (Of course, that Kaine’s poll numbers were surging in the weeks before Wilder’s move, more or less forced him to hop aboard the Kaine bandwagon.) However, if Wilder and Kaine made a deal along the way, dear reader, it’s between the two of them, where I expect it will stay. And, don’t believe for one second that $15,000 had anything to do with any such agreement.

The real question should be this: For the sum of $15,000, what exactly did the Kaine campaign buy from Goldman, the mayor’s longtime right-hand-man, who is, by the way, on the City’s payroll?

Goldman -- what’s with that same-as-it-ever-was sport jacket? -- has been a quirky background player in politics, a strategist, whose specific duties and methods have never been fully aired out in the press. Now Richmond’s taxpayers are paying him $145,000 a year to be a “senior policy adviser.” Sounds like a consultant to me.

To know if there is a conflict of interest in Goldman’s duties to the City and what he -- acting again as a consultant -- did for Kaine’s camp, we simply must know what that $15,000 bought at the 11th hour of what had been a two-year campaign. Don't most political consultants do their special magic a little earlier than the eve of an election?

Was it 15 G's-worth of advice? Or, does Goldman have connections on cut-rate sky-writers or poster printing? Or, does he own an offshore phone bank? Maybe Goldman called some people, who knew some people? Or, could the dough have gone into a fund for what used to be known as walking around money? In other words, did it go toward small cash payments to individuals -- on the day of the election -- to persuade them to drop what they were doing to go vote? Or what?

That “or what?” is the problem. We’re being left to fill in the blanks. Even though happy Democrats are busy pointing at recent money scandals that appear to tarnish a list of Republicans -- such as Rep. Virgil Goode and Rep. Eric Cantor -- the donkeys ought to give it a rest, long enough to squeeze the truth out of Goldman.

For Goldman to return the troublesome money, or give it to a charity, is not enough. Both he and Kaine’s campaign must clear the air on this matter, pronto, to put it in the rear view mirror. That, or this minor brouhaha could swell up to be a King Kong-sized distraction at Kaine’s inaugural.

Perhaps Mr. Goldman would be more comfortable working exclusively in the private sector, where he can stay in the shadows? That checkered coat he always wears probably looks better in low light.

-- 30 --

Photo Credit: F. T Rea

Thursday, December 15, 2005

On Not Looking Weak

Washington Post political columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr., advises Democrats to wise up on Iraq and stop worrying about "looking weak." Is there any chance they will find their courage?

"The neat summary of the new Republican home-front offensive was the tag line on a Republican National Committee ad: 'Our country is at war. Our soldiers are watching and our enemies are too. Message to Democrats: Retreat and Defeat is not an option.' Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert helpfully explained: 'The Democratic Party sides with those who wish to surrender.' Attacks on Democrats of this sort are effective because Democrats help make them so. Democrats are so obsessed with not looking 'weak' on defense that they end up making themselves look weak, period, by the way they respond to Republican attacks on their alleged weakness."

Click here to read the piece.

a paintingblog

From A Painting a Day, a "paintingblog" by Duane Keiser.
Yes, there's a new one every day. The site is worth a visit.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Conscientious Objecting Pharmacists?

Cartoonist/OpEd writer Ted Rall takes a look at the front line of what he calls "the war over our genitals."

"When a soldier refuses an order to shoot someone, it's virtually impossible to obtain 'conscientious objector' status. A soldier who refuses to kill faces a court martial and possible prison sentence. But when a pharmacist refuses to dispense a drug that would prevent a woman from becoming pregnant with her rapist's child, he's merely 'following his principles' -- and enjoys the support of his state legislature. Luke Vander Bleek, an Illinois pharmacist who says his Catholic faith led him to fight an Illinois rule that requires him to fill all prescriptions, including those for birth control, says: 'I've always stopped short of dispensing any sort of product that I think endangers human life or puts the human embryo at risk.'"

Click here to read Rall's rant.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Detached

"Detached" is the title under which I've written a series of short stories. The art to the right was scanned from a color copy of art I did in 1995, developing a cover-art idea for the collection, which I was almost sure was being finished up then at nine stories.

At this point, a whole decade later, four stories are completed. Alas, there are another dozen, or so, in vaious stages of completion. Of them I'm guessing now, perhaps three, five at the most, will actually be finished, one day. Approaching the end of 2005, one day still seems off in the distance to the author. Let's call it a work-in progress.

So, for the time being here are links to the four that I've sworn never to rewrite, again -- all featuring Roscoe Swift as the protagonist, set between 1966 and 1985 -- which are now available online for your reading pleasure. The stories examine splinters of time, which stand out as important to Roscoe -- including: a train trip to boot camp; chasing away a hangover in a '70s saloon, J. W. Rayle; near-love and other out-of-town illusions; a battle of raging anxiety vs. sparks of dignity. They are:

Central Time
Cross-eyed Mona
Fancy Melons
Maybe Rosebud

Saturday, December 10, 2005

What It Is...

by F. T. Rea

On a cold January morning, 15 years ago, bright sunlight lit up the thin coating of freezing rain that had painted the city the evening before. In the crisp air a slender middle-aged man, a freelance artist/writer, walked at a careful but purposeful pace on the tricky sidewalk. The ice-clad trees along the street were dazzling, as seen through his trusty Ray-Bans. The wooly winter jacket his girlfriend/roommate had given him for Christmas felt good.

Since the freelancer couldn’t concentrate on his reading of the morning’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, he left half a mug of black coffee and a dozing cat on his desk to walk to the post office. He hoped the overdue check from a magazine publisher was waiting in his post office box.

Anxiously, he opened the box with his key. It was empty. He shrugged; an empty box had its upside -- there were no cut-off notices in it. With his last 20 bucks in his pocket, the freelancer hummed a favorite Fats Domino tune, “Ain’t That a Shame,” as he headed home.

By the end of the workday the freelancer's mission was to finish an 800-word OpEd piece, with an accompanying illustration, and drop it all off on an editor’s desk. With the drum beat for war in the air he wanted to focus on the inevitable unintended consequences of any war. Yet, with the clock ticking on his deadline he was still at a loss for an angle.

In 1991 the country was mired in an economic recession. The national debt was skyrocketing. War with Iraq was looming, it seemed all but inevitable. Pondering what demons might be spawned by an all-out war in Iraq, to be discovered down the road, he detoured a couple of blocks to pick up a Washington Post and a fresh cup of coffee.

Approaching the 7-Eleven store the freelancer noticed a lone panhandler standing off to the left of the front doors. The tall man was thin and frail. He wore a lightweight denim jacket with a hooded sweatshirt underneath. Snot was frozen in his mustache. His heavy-lidded eyes were terribly red.

During a time when a much younger version of the freelancer had run a night life business in which he dealt with the public, he had determined his policy should be to never in any way encourage panhandlers to hang around. The rigid policy -- never a nickel -- had lingered well after the comfortable job was gone.

On this cold day it wasn’t easy for the freelancer to avert his eye from the poor soul’s trembling outstretched hand. Not hearing the desperate man’s hoarse plea for food money was impossible.

When there are always so many lives to be saved in our midst, why do we have to go to the Middle East to save lives, the freelancer wondered?

Inside the busy store the freelancer poured a large coffee. Fretting profusely, he snapped the cup’s lid in place. It was one of those times when the little freelancer with horns was standing on one of his shoulders, while his opposite, the one with the halo, was on the other, both offering counsel.

The freelancer's policy caved in seconds later. Still, he decided to give the panhandler food, rather than hand over cash to perhaps finance a bottle of sweet wine. What the hell? it might change my luck, he thought as he smiled.

Trying to max out the bang-for-the-buck aspect of his gesture, the freelancer settled on a king-sized hot dog, with plenty of free stuff on it -- mustard, chopped onions, relish, jalapeno peppers, chili and some gooey cheese-like product. Not wanting to push it too far, he passed on the catsup and mayonnaise.

Outside the store, the freelancer found the starving panhandler had vanished. The crestfallen philanthropist took the paid-for meal-on-a-bun with him, as he walked softly singing a Buffalo Springfield song, “For What It’s Worth.” His strides with the beat, he kept to the street to avoid the slick sidewalk in the shade.

There’s somethin’ happening here,
What it is ain’t exactly clear.
There’s a man with a gun over there,
Tellin’ me I gotta beware.

I think it’s time we stop, children, what's that sound,
Everybody look, what's going down.

A line from that song’s last verse -- paranoia strikes deep -- suddenly snapped into place. He had an idea and he stepped up the pace. Back in his office/studio space, rather than waste money he tore into the buck-banging feast he had prepared for a beggar. Offended by its sight or smell the cat fled. Between sloppy bites the artist sketched furiously to rough out a cartoon.

It wasn’t long before the heartburn started. Eventually, it got brutal. The freelancer pressed on. He wrote about the way propaganda always works to sell every war as glorious and essential to the everyday people, who risk their lives. That while the wealthy, who rarely take a genuine risk on anything, urge the patriots on and count their profits. He lamented the popular culture having gone wrong, so there was no longer a place for anti-war protest songs.

He wrote, “Where are today’s non-conformists? Nowhere. Conformity? It’s no longer an issue.”

The freelancers sour/noisy stomach finally calmed down during his second happy hour beer, after turning in his work in at 4:55 p.m., once again, in the nick of time. When he told the tale of the "stuffed hot dog" and the belly ache, he made it seem funny to those around the elbow of the marble bar, "Hey, make sure to leave off the catsup and mayonnaise."

In his element, the freelancer’s audience of familiar faces laughed/groaned on cue when he finished off with, “Oh well, a panhandler, some paranoia, some heartburn, another deadline met. What can I say? -- it was all for what it’s worth.”

-- 30 --

Friday, December 09, 2005

Historians: Bush the Worst President -- Ever?

Urbane columnist Richard Reeves is still taking the long view -- in this case, President James Buchanan vs. President George W. Bush -- and making sense of political events that come packaged in fog:

"...Buchanan, the 15th president, is generally considered the worst president in history. Ironically, the Pennsylvania Democrat, elected in 1856, was one of the most qualified of the 43 men who have served in the highest office.

"...This is what those historians said about the Bush record:

  • He has taken the country into an unwinnable war and alienated friend and foe alike in the process;
  • He is bankrupting the country with a combination of aggressive military spending and reduced taxation of the rich;
  • He has deliberately and dangerously attacked separation of church and state;
  • He has repeatedly "misled," to use a kind word, the American people on affairs domestic and foreign;
  • He has proved to be incompetent in affairs domestic (New Orleans) and foreign (Iraq and the battle against al-Qaida);
  • He has sacrificed American employment (including the toleration of pension and benefit elimination) to increase overall productivity;
  • He is ignorantly hostile to science and technological progress;
  • He has tolerated or ignored one of the republic's oldest problems, corporate cheating in supplying the military in wartime."

Click here to read the Reeves column.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Peace, Chance and Wonder

by F. T. Rea
John Lennon
Illustration by Mike Lormand (1984)
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his death, I can’t help but wonder what the founder of the Beatles -- John Lennon, a master of word-play and sarcasm -- would have to say about today’s version of freedom and today’s follies. After all, in his nearly 20 years as a public figure Lennon’s talent for changing before our eyes was dazzling. So predicting what he’d say now isn’t easy. Alas, peace is still waiting for its chance

In February of 1964 the Beatles made their initial appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show. At the time most of us Baby Boomers probably didn’t connect the events, but those two appearances were only three months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Surely, the somber mood of the nation following the jolts -- Bang! Kennedy. Bang! Oswald. -- had something to do with why those early Beatles recordings cut through the heavy airwaves with such verve. There has been no explosion in the American pop music scene since with anything near the equivalent impact of Liverpool’s Fab Four.

Then, in 1980, the murder of moody John Lennon had an impact on the public few would have predicted. It was as if a world leader had been gunned down on the street in Manhattan.

Lennon’s obvious contributions as a songwriter and musician were huge. However, it was the working class hero’s tart integrity and delight in taking risks that set him apart from his teen idol counterparts, many of whom toyed with politics and social causes as if they were merely hairdos or dance crazes.

With the Vietnam War still underway in the early ‘70s, President Richard Nixon looked at Lennon and saw the raw power to galvanize a generation’s anti-establishment sentiments. Fearful of that potential, the Nixon administration did everything it could to hound Lennon out of the country. The details of that nasty little campaign are just as bewildering as some of the better known abuses that flowed from the Dirty Tricks Department in the White House during those scandal-ridden days.

With two-and-a-half decades of perspective on Lennon’s death, it’s possible to see that even if that particular nut-case (a man I choose not to name because I refuse to add in any way to his celebrity) hadn’t pulled the trigger, it could easily have been another one; there were bullets out there with John Lennon’s name on them. Like the comets of each generation are bound to do, sometimes Lennon burned too bright for his own good.

And speaking of assassins, at this time I’m also reminded of an item that ran in the Nashville Banner on Feb. 24, 1987. The article began with this: “Two Nashville musicians remained free on $500 bond today after they went on a magazine-shredding tear …to protest People magazine’s current cover story.”

The two musicians were Gregg Wetzel, and Mike McAdam. As members of the Good Humor Band they were fixtures in Richmond’s Rock ‘n’ Roll scene in the early ‘80s. By the time the story mentioned above was published, the pair had established themselves as respected sidemen in Nashville -- Wetzel on piano and McAdam on guitar.

In a nutshell, Gregg and Mike became incensed at seeing the magazine with a cover story about John Lennon’s murderer. They felt spotlighting the killer in that way might encourage another deranged wannabe to take gun in hand to go after whoever. So they fortified themselves with an adequate dose of what-it-takes -- legend has it they were drinking out of an Elvis decanter -- and set out on a mission to destroy the cover of every copy of the offensive publication they could find on the strip. As the reader may know, this sort of endeavor is best done in the wee hours.

In the course of their fifth stop, at a Nashville convenience store, the avenging angels were stopped by the cops and charged with “malicious mischief.” Shortly afterwards, in a interview about the incident, McAdam said, “If another guy like [name withheld again] sees that, he might think he can get on the cover of People magazine by killing a politician or artist.”

Bravo!

Primary among the reasons John Lennon was selected for the kill by his stalking murderer was he had a rare ability to move people. In that sense, Lennon was slain for the same reason as political figures such as Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy. Two thousand years ago Jesus H. Christ was taken out of the game for much the same reason: He challenged people to change; to take a chance on a life based on something better than might making right.

Although Nixon miscalculated Lennon’s intentions, the soon-to-be-disgraced president was probably right about the former Beatle’s potential to focus the anti-establishment sentiments in the air. What Nixon didn’t grasp was that Lennon -- in spite of his mischievous streak -- was really more interested in promoting peace than fomenting revolution.

Among other memorable song lyrics John Lennon penned, this familiar line seems particularly appropriate in 2005, a year limping to the finish line: “All we are saying is give peace a chance.”

During the upcoming holiday season, with its short days and extra splash of bright lights, the birth of the world’s best-known martyr -- a working class hero himself -- is celebrated by Christians. But to escape the wall of corny Christmas music on the radio, I’m going to put a cd of Lennon’s greatest hits on the Bose (courtesy of my brother) and listen to No. 9 Dream.

Some of those post-Beatles cuts still seem fresh, experimental. Now, well into stranger days, indeed, chance we wonder what Lennon might have dreamed and written if he had lived to be 65? Imagine...

Peace.

-- 30 --

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Cheeky Chickenhawk

Well, well, well... After Rush Limbaugh weighed in (see post below) on the ongoing hostage crisis in Iraq, which has Virginian Tom Fox (a Marine Corps veteran and now a peace activist) facing execution tomorrow at the hands of his captors, I searched the Internet for a transcript of Limbaugh’s remarks. At Limbaugh's web site I found I’d have to join up to see much more than his ads. I had wanted to quote him but joining his blithering Dittoheads was out of the question. However, some of what I did find along the way was quite funny. As I mentioned in the post below, ordinarily I don’t pay much attention to Limbaugh. So, I hadn’t read/heard anything about his infamous and useful cyst.

Moreover, I didn’t realize that Limbaugh was not only one of the most prominent “chickenhawks” on the horizon, these days, but it seems he got his draft deferment for a cyst on his keister.

This is off the charts. Is it possible that a smarmy radio personality who talks like John Wayne and walks like Pee-Wee Herman once beat the draft with a stubborn pimple? By the way, Wayne was another guy who never served in uniform and made a good living striking the pose of tough guy, while pointing his patriotic finger at war protestors.

OK, maybe the cyst story is an urban legend. I don't know. I got tired of reading about Bad-Ass Rush's various medical problems, then and now. But if it’s true, I have to say that I can remember more than a few guys who would have loved to have known it was possible to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War, owing to such a trivial problem.

To read more about prominent chickenhawks, in general, and Limbaugh’s silly deferment click here. Then maybe you’ll find it easier to understand how Katherine Fox, Tom Fox’s daughter, could shrug off anything at all the likes of a Rush "Cheeky Chickenhawk" Limbaugh had to say about her father’s plight.

Limbaugh: Beyond the Pale

As I watched hostage Tom Fox's brave daughter on ABC's Nightline, shrugging off the obstreperous and shameless Rush Limbaugh's remarks about her father's ordeal, I was amazed at her calm. Usually I can laugh off Limbaugh's blather. But, in truth, I've been ignoring him so long, and so thoroughly, that I had forgotten what a sick cat he is. This time -- seeing Fox as a liberal getting wised up -- he was beyond the pale.

This is the only story I've found about it so far. It doesn't focus on Limbaugh much. Read it and see what you think. If I find another article with more detail I'll add a link to it later.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Shame Game

Occasionally, I read the editorial page's letters to the editor in the Richmond Times-Dispatch; here are excepts of one that made me laugh, written by Sandro Sartori, which caught my eye this morning.

"...I am sick and tired of hearing the media and Democrats complaining that the President lied to the country to invade Iraq. ...According to the polls the President's popularity is way down and people believe he lied to the country. Some, I'm sure, have visited one of the numerous Holocaust memorials. They probably know the motto of these memorial sites: Never again. They are all hypocrites. A holocaust was happening again and we all should be ashamed that the President had to resort to lying to get us to stop it. If he hadn't, Saddam would still be killing millions today. According to the polls we are quite willing to let another holocaust occur and another Hitler exist. We should all be ashamed that the President had to lie to us to make us do the right thing."

We should be ashamed!

One step beyond the blowhard accusations and threadbare denials that have been coming out of the Bush administration lately, to do with launching its war in Iraq, the letter-writer's creative approach to explaining away the administration's deliberate pickling of the pre-war "intelligence" may well be a preview of what's coming soon from Cheney, Rice, et al.

Wouldn't you get a laugh out of hearing Uncle Dick say we should be ashamed for making our poor president lie to us? Thirty years ago TV comedian Flip Wilson had a signature line that best summed up the same sort of thinking. Flip would roll his eyes and say, "The devil made me do it."

Click here to read the whole letter.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Miss Buns Locks Up

Sheriff Michelle B. Mitchell has summarily barred the new sheriff-elect, C. T. Woody, from Richmond’s jail -- a facility she will continue to oversee for the rest of her third four-year term in office. Woody, who defeated Mitchell in the citywide election last month, takes over Jan. 1, 2006.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports Mitchell has also locked out the panel Mayor Doug Wilder appointed to study the dilapidated jail’s operation and needs. Wilder’s panel was created in June after faulty locks in the 40-year-old jailhouse enabled an inmate to leave his cell, enter another inmate’s cell and beat him to death.

During the acrimonious campaign season the Mitchell and Woody camps made news with their hardnosed tactics. Then in October, when word got out the State Board of Elections web site had Mitchell’s email address listed as MissBuns@aol.com, she became a celebrity on Dave Barry’s blog. For her part, Mitchell had no comment.

Here’s a heads-up to the grocery store national tabloids -- Mitchell is not only good copy, she’s a knockout in the looks department (the photo above from the Virginia Sheriffs web site really doesn't do her justice). In a fancy dress at a cocktail party, believe me, she steals the show.

I don’t claim to know what is going on here, but for some reason a 42-year-old woman who appeared to have bright future seems to be burning her bridges with reckless abandon. So, is Miss Buns just a sore loser? Or, does Mitchell have some good, or bad, reasons for not wanting certain people with legitimate business at the jail to come inside? Or, what?

Once again, she won’t say. No comment.

Meanwhile, Mitchell's loyal top deputy, Lt. Col. Alan E. Roehm, says there will be "no transition."

How long will Mayor Wilder put up with this situation? Stay tuned, this story is bound to get much more interesting soon.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Bizarro Richmond

Oh well, just another chilly Friday afternoon with less daylight than the last. Not much to comment on in today’s local news, unless, of course, one finds three stories in the Richmond Times-Dispatch to be rather bizarre. The headlines read: School Board Chair Admits Web Post; Sheriff-Elect Barred from Jail; Richmond Man First Convicted Under Expanded Child-Porn Law [to face 1,000 years in prison].

Tired of reading about the complicated performing arts center flap? OK. Try these stories for something a little different:

“Richmond School Board Chairman Stephen B. Johnson last night admitted posting a bare-chested photo of himself on an explicit male-dating Internet site. "It was stupid," Johnson said, explaining that the photo had been on the site for a "couple of days." Johnson's photo on Manhunt.net was not explicit in nature, but the text describing him was very graphic.”

Stupid? No, Mr. Johnson, this is beyond "stupid." It is way too silly to just be stupid. Read the rest of the story here.

“C.T. Woody defeated incumbent Sheriff Michelle B. Mitchell last month. While most folks can't wait to get out of their cells in the crowded and crumbling jail, Sheriff-elect C.T. Woody is having a hard time getting in the front door. In the four weeks since his upset victory over three-term incumbent Sheriff Michelle B. Mitchell, Woody says he has yet to be allowed into the facility.”


What in the world is Mitchell doing here? If she doesn't explain away what's going on soon, she's asking for nothing but trouble. To read this head-scratcher click here.

“A 53-year-old Richmond man yesterday became the first person convicted under a 2003 federal statute that makes obscene cartoon drawings as well as photographs an illegal form of child pornography. Dwight Whorley could be sentenced to more than 1,000 years in prison because a jury found him guilty of 74 counts of child pornography charges in U.S. District Court. Those counts include the obscene cartoons and charges of sending and receiving obscene e-mails describing sexual abuse of children.”

Nobody is defending child porn, but if a cartoon can be child porn, what about literature? Is "Lolita" child porn? Hey, even the Bible has racy stories that involve incest. How about an abstract painting with a title that suggests underage sex? How about a song about it? -- Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen." To find out how a man can get incarcerated for over 1,000 years for possessing cartoons click here.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Democratic Victories Amid Presidential Weakness

Zogby International's analysis of the Virginia gubernatorial election is worth a read:

"...Democrat Tim Kaine campaigned the final days before the Nov. 8 election with popular out-going Gov. Mark Warner, and his victory in the race squares with Zogby polling data that shows Warner helped win more votes for his fellow Democrat. Republican candidate Jerry Kilgore was not so lucky. Accepting a White House offer of presidential help stumping at the last minute, the Zogby poll shows President Bush’s appearance in Richmond the day before the election may have hurt more than it helped. Asked whether the Bush appearance made them more or less likely to support Mr. Kilgore, just 10% said more likely, while 21% said it made them less likely."

Click here for more of it.

Polly's Swoopy Bits

Prolific political blogger Waldo Jaquith penned a short piece, "Polly Wants a Carjacker," about a mysterious parrot. It made me smile. Here's a tidbit:

"...What made this parrot noteworthy was its remarkable cry. Every fifteen minutes or so, it would, without warning, let out a sixty-second-long series of oddly-familiar screeches and amelodic tones. ...Then there were a series of eight descending swoopy bits, two longer ascending swoops, and then a solid twenty seconds of staccato tones to wrap things up."

Click here to find out what was up with Polly.