Sunday, December 31, 2006

Top story in review: Webb upsets Allen

Senator-elect Jim Webb

Note: Easily the most-covered story at SLANTblog during 2006 was Jim Webb’s march from a late blooming dark horse to unseating incumbent George Allen. My first post of 2006 on this story was on New Year’s Day. Who knew where it would lead?

What follows are selected excerpts/highlights of the meandering yarn of how Webb stumped the so-called experts and delivered control of the U.S. Senate to the Democrats, as told by SLANTblog, on the fly:

Jan. 1: ...A web site devoted to boosting James Webb, a former Secretary of the Navy, into running against Sen. George Allen has been launched. Webb, a one-time Republican who is now an outspoken critic of the Bush war policy in Iraq, could make for an interesting player in Virginia politics.

Note: In February the cartoon riots roiled in Europe and Vice President Dick Cheney shot one of his hunting companions in Texas. President George Bush was busy as hell denying he even knew Jack Abramoff. So, a lot of people didn’t notice that a writer in Virginia had apparently changed his mind about running for office.

Feb. 8: ...In what runs contrary to a rumor that flashed across the Lefty Blogs [headlines] on Jan. 30, a rumor that passed for a few days as expert inside information, James Webb announced yesterday that he will seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican incumbent George Allen for his Senate seat.

Feb. 22: ...Meanwhile, Allen is the same affable, go-along-to-get-along rightwing senator he’s been all along. Yet, with the Bush administration spinning out of control, Allen’s role as a Bush/Cheney cheerleader probably won’t be much of a plus with most Virginia voters. Yes, with bad vibes all around him, Allen is likely to be campaigning this time around on his own personality and record, for what that’s worth.Looking back on it, in a way he's never been tested. In statewide elections Allen defeated Mary Sue Terry and Chuck Robb; in both instances he benefited from having opponents whose political careers had peaked and begun to ebb.

Note: With March Madness in the air, George Mason stunned sports fans coast-to-coast with their four victories that put them in the Final Four. Mark Warner’s strangely “retouched” photo appeared on the cover of the New York Times Magazine. And, the contest for the Virginia Democratic senatorial nomination was starting to heat up.

Mar. 11: ...Yet, if one took seriously the catty chatter from some purebred Democrats -- who see themselves as way-more-donkey-than-thou -- newcomers can't necessarily be full members right away. No doubt they see Webb’s maverick streak as a threat, instead of an asset. They have recently sought to undermine his campaign with silly distractions that smell faintly of a swift boat-like strategy.

Well, it says here that if candidate Harris Miller wants a future in Virginia politics, beyond just being a well-connected guy, he should put the kibosh on this sort of thing, pronto! Chalk it up to bad advice, fire somebody and swear off such tactics from here on. Show some class.

Mar. 14: ...Wanting to know more about Harris Miller and having noted from Lefty Blogs that the candidate has a new web site, I clicked on the link. The first thing I saw was a head-scratching, boring blurb in bold type at the top of the page: “We Can Fix Washington.” Then this: “Together, we can clean up Washington and refocus our government on the right priorities.” Without going any further, I cringed and wondered: who in the world would put such banal, vague copy up as the most important thing for a viewer to see?

Was it a joke?

Note: In April, Bush created a new word -- “decider” -- to defend his Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I’m the decider, and I decide what is best...” In Virginia an aggregator for political blogs was launched by Waldo Jaquith, just in time to make the Webb vs. Miller race more interesting.

May 22: ...Miller’s staff has a predicament, in that they have to be hoping for a low turnout in the primary. They think their strong suit is mostly longtime party regulars. So, the more the general public notices the contest, the more likely it is to be drawn to the more attractive individual with a more interesting resume. If independents vote, and they can, it's hard to imagine they would be Miller backers.

Miller is what? 

A behind-the-scene guy. A lobbyist. A wealthy businessman. Webb, once Secretary of the Navy, writes books that become movies. Finally, I’m surprised anyone with any real experience in the political game ever told Harris Miller he ought to run for public office.

May 29: ...Perhaps Webb’s strong suit is the powerful sense of dignity he projects. That’s something you can’t buy. Few politicians today have that.Note: In June a brouhaha over a flier mocking Harris Miller erupted in the days before the primary, which Webb won, only to be instantly declared the hopeless underdog against Allen.

June 6: ...Perhaps the most bogus thing I’ve read repeatedly on political blogs is about their trump card, their “passion.” Oh yes, “passion” is dripping from their sleeves. “Passion” is their reason, and it’s their all-purpose monkey wrench of an excuse. Many of the Democrats’ busiest bloggers this season haven’t really been dealing with ideas, so much as they have personalities. In this era they prefer seeing elected officials as celebrities. They want their favorite politicians, even their paid staffers, to be “rock stars.”

To that notion I say this: A pack of celebrity worshippers drunk on cheap passion, poured from a screw-top bottle, singing along with the radio, turned up way too loud, may have lots of fun at the party. Then comes the hangover ... the lost wallet... the trouble from what you said that you don’t remember.

June 10: ...Yes, given the chance to say “no comment” to a question about the offending flier Miller whimpered to enlarge the story. It seems the Miller camp believes that pointing an accusatory finger at Webb’s camp over this rather juvenile piece of propaganda, in order to extend its life as a concocted issue, is benefiting their candidate. They don’t mind if someone sees that stance as similar to the position of the Muslim zealots who called for the death of any cartoonist who draws a picture of The Prophet.

June 15: ...Well, I’m absolutely delighted that Webb won. My short take on his success is that Webb represented change and hope to the disillusioned. Furthermore, his candidacy said there are honest Republicans and other moderate conservatives who have finally given up on denial. They have wised up -- too much Iraq, Katrina and sleaze -- and if that trend picks up steam it threatens to scald the incumbent, George Allen.

Note: In July it still seemed to many following the Webb vs. Allen race that Webb’s lack of money and inability to unite the Democratic Party spelled doom. There was much speculation that Allen would hardly need to campaign in Virginia in the fall, so he could continue to concentrate on Iowa and New Hampshire. Then on Aug. 11 a video recording made by Webb volunteer S.R. Sidarth changed the campaign.

Aug. 18: ...The best way to keep the Macaca gaffe story churning -- and helping Webb -- is not to continue to throw racist charges at George Allen, as if he had just burned a cross on Richmond civil rights hero Oliver Hill’s front lawn. Plus, by using old racial terms that have a lot of baggage -- words you may see as the most attention-getting equivalent of what Allen said -- you may be getting a lot of hits on your counters, but that doesn’t automatically mean you’re making new friends for your candidate.

The story now is the goofy series of denials from Allen’s camp. It’s Allen’s other awkward moves to make the story go away. It’s the silly contortions his defenders have twisted themselves into, in order to defend their man. It’s the stupidity of his acting like a bully, in the first place, demeaning an opponent’s volunteer -- while that volunteer is rolling tape in a video camera.

Aug. 21: ...Then, as the Macaca story morphed from concern and outrage over the racist aspects of his loutish remarks at Breaks Interstate Park -- by midweek -- something else began to bubble to the surface: Perhaps George Allen’s aw-shucks, nice guy, poor man’s Ronald Reagan persona has been, and remains, just about as phony as it gets.

Perhaps that video tape showed much more than a mere slip of the tongue by a closet racist. It may have also revealed a bullying personality that serves to undermine the entire easy-to-like Southern gentleman act Allen has been affecting for his entire career in Virginia politics.

Aug. 24: ...As a media expert, [Dick] Wadhams has looked more like a rube than a guy who really knows how to play the game. He’s actually done almost as much as his boss -- a clumsy ex-jock who got caught slurring his faux good-ol'-boy party attitude -- to keep this story at the top of the news. Which has kept the Allen campaign in total damage-control mode.

As long as Wadhams, the high-priced spin doctor, casts Allen as the victim in this scenario the feeding frenzy isn’t going to stop. He doesn’t seem to know another way to play it.

Sept. 3: ...Time will tell. For a match-up that was supposed to be a cakewalk for the incumbent, Allen, the polls now rate the contest a toss-up. Still, the role the Internet played as pro-Jim Webb bloggers spread the juicy news of the tape’s existence and ready availability -- via -- is something that political pros all over the country are studying right now.We now live in a post-Macaca world.

Actually watching the one-minute video offered the viewer something more than a brief glimpse at a racially insensitive blunder -- as would a short newspaper article -- it revealed a glowering insider, Sen. George Allen, lording it over a perceived outsider.

Sept. 12: ...As I recall it, [Sen. Benny] Lambert was opposed to the strong-mayor to be elected by a citywide vote concept that carried Richmond three years ago by an overwhelming margin. In that stance he stood with Sen. Henry Marsh and broke with Mayor Doug Wilder, the man who spearheaded the change in Richmond’s City Charter, and who then went on to be elected mayor in the next year. Wilder carried all nine districts in Richmond. Thus, it should be noted that Lambert’s influence over voters in Richmond is not at all what it once was.

Sept. 17: ...On a zero-to-ten scale Jim Webb gets a six for his solid performance. George Allen earned a four, at best, for his.

Moreover, Webb’s camp won’t have to release a bunch of post-debate spin to control the damage. That, while George Allen’s apologists are going to be as busy as bees for the next few days trying to explain away his waffling on the biggest question of the debate -- do you stand with Sen. John Warner, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham, or do you stand with President George Bush? On which side of the torture chasm do you stand?

Sept. 19: ...For a little over five weeks, now, Republican Sen. George Allen has been shooting at his political opponent, Democrat Jim Webb, and mostly hitting his own cowboy boots. Allen has blown so many holes in his footwear it’s a wonder the man could stand up after yesterday’s headline-making debate in McLean.

The pattern started on Aug. 11 with his use of the word “macaca” in a telling (perhaps drunken?) episode that was caught on video tape and widely viewed. Since then Allen’s various explanations of his bullying behavior, especially the meaning of the unusual word, have been spectacularly unconvincing. Yesterday, during the debate, the pattern continued with his strange reaction to a sudden question about his ancestry.

Sept. 21: ...Today Allen admits he knew that his mother’s father was Jewish when the question was asked. At the same time, he also had to know it had been speculated in print over the years that he'd been hiding his Jewish roots. So Allen knew that question was coming, his bluster was an obvious stalling maneuver.

But because Allen simply didn’t want to answer it, the question was too personal? While that stance is strong on chutzpah, it’s fatally weak on finesse.

During the week the Allen camp has awkwardly played every angle of this business it can see. Yet, other than his professional apologists, groupies and hardcore following, I just don’t know who is going to buy this “victim” pose. As a strategy, it seems much more likely to earn Allen another batch of late-night TV jokes at his expense.

Sept. 24: ...Today’s penalty flag must be thrown on the A-Team blog, which is trying to give us a bogus history lesson on European political art, in order to muddy the water surrounding Sen. George Allen’s awkward performance this past week, to do with his Jewish roots. Today, on Rosh Hashanah, the inflammatory name of Julius Streicher was invoked by the A-Team to try to score some cheap points on Allen’s opponent, Jim Webb.

Sept. 30: ...On top of that Allen’s aggressive-only strategists have seemed blind to the trouble for Allen their galling blame-the-other-guy strategy is causing. It is drying up the reservoir of good will Allen had built up over his political career. It is flushing old grudges out of the woodwork because now some who held back before can imagine Allen, the longtime bully, losing this race.

To cast all that as something the Webb camp has orchestrated, as part of a conspiracy with the mainstream media, is preposterous. Has Mr. Wadhams come to Virginia to try to make us believe the conservative Richmond Times-Dispatch is in on that conspiracy?

Oct. 1: ...When you’re the Republican incumbent who’s just lost 16 percentage points in the latest opinion poll, then both the Sons of Confederate Veterans and Saturday Night Live come after you in the same week, well ... that could strip a gear.

SNL’s season-opener featured a rollicking George Allen sequence during the Weekend Update, which mocked him for his recent run of bad publicity -- macaca a made-up word; ham sandwiches; deer head in the mailbox. No doubt, this amusing development, which will surely spawn more popular videos to be viewed on the Internet, will have the sinking senator’s spinners working overtime.

Oct. 25: ... [Mayor Doug] Wilder spoke of the billions being spent in Iraq “every week,” then brought up the fact that FEMA just recently turned down calls to offer aid to flood victims in Richmond’s soggy lower Battery Park neighborhood. The implication seemed to be that the federal government would have money for such problems were it not for the quagmire in Iraq.

Both men are decorated veterans: Wilder served in Korea; Webb in Vietnam.

Wilder was asked why he did not wait until the 11th hour -- the election is still 13 days away -- to make his endorsement of Webb, as he did for Governor Tim Kaine in the gubernatorial contest last year. Wilder laughed, saying it had come somewhat later than what Webb’s camp might have wanted. The room laughed with him.

Webb got the bigger laugh by cracking that it was more like “a 10:30 endorsement.” 

Oct. 28: ...In what has become a gritty, no-holds-barred style fight for Sen. George Allen’s seat in the U.S. Senate the candidates’ raw character is being revealed in the crucible of the last round. Allen’s first punch thrown -- “Allen blasts Webb over his novels” -- came up from the floor to land well below his opponent’s belt. With the fight tied on the scorecards Allen’s surprise bolo punch drew a big reaction from the crowd.

Jim Webb’s supporters in the lathered up audience cried, “Foul! Low-blow!

Webb, who until this moment in the long campaign had punched and blocked punches with a steady, practiced restraint, gathered himself to respond.

Saturday afternoon at a rally in Annandale, Webb cut loose with his sharpest counterpunch of the entire fight. This time his full weight was behind the blow.

Nov. 4: ...Allen’s ubiquitous television commercials are now claiming Webb’s writings are “deviant” and that they “demean” women. Well, it’s no wonder Allen’s handlers want him to focus on fiction. In the last 12 weeks reality has been awfully tough on Allen’s supposedly easy run to win a second term in the U.S. Senate.

In reality, Allen’s record as a senator stands in obedient compliance with the Bush administration’s woefully unpopular positions on many issues, including the war in Iraq and stem cell research. Reality now has Allen trailing in the most recent polls, having dropped over 10 points in the last month.

Reality now has Allen’s heretofore useful image as an aw-shucks Southern gentleman in tatters. Reality also has comedians poking fun at Allen as a buffoon, a total phony.

It was in the real world that a youthful Jim Webb survived combat missions as a marine in Vietnam. That experience served as the foundation for his career, both as a writer and in public service as an expert on military matters in the Reagan administration. In the real world Jim Webb has a built a resume that testifies to his many accomplishments. Webb has won widespread praise for his fiction, as well as his reportage on international politics. 
Attacking an award-winning writer for his body of work is an extreme measure. In truth, only desperation or stupidity would make a political campaign do it, because the professional spin doctors know full well that the press -- with writers at the heart of it -- is not going to like such a tactic much, no matter whether they lean to the left or the right.

So, Allen’s attack on Webb’s profession -- a lurch backward into the bad old days of book-burning -- is the surest sign we’ve seen that Allen knows he’s behind Webb and time is running out.

Nov. 8: ...In Virginia, as much as I applaud Jim Webb’s apparent victory, I have to say that George Allen did more to hurt himself than anything anyone opposing him did. History will probably say Allen was the first thought-to-be-invincible politician to defeated by the Internet, by way of the famous “Macaca” YouTube video.

Then, once Allen’s gaffes let his rather politically inexperienced opponent into the race, Webb swelled up and managed to make himself into a better campaigner than a lot of people had thought he could.

Nov. 9: ...Shortly after 3 p.m. today in Alexandria, after being introduced by Sen. John Warner, who spoke of Sen. George Allen’s “bright future,” Allen threw a football into the crowd, caught it when it was thrown back to him, conceded that Jim Webb had won the election and announced he would not be seeking a recount.

Allen thanked God, his wife, his children, his mother, his staff and campaign volunteers. Saying there is a “time and place for everything,” Allen added, “we live to fight another day.” Then the ex-quarterback threw the football back and forth one last time, at least for today.

Nov. 22: ...The Virginia political blogosphere has been getting a lot of scrutiny this fall. And, deservedly so. Without the busy blogosphere’s input Jim Webb’s upset of George Allen would surely not have happened as it did, if it would have happened at all.

Then again, without Allen’s own videotaped gaffes and botched damage control, the tireless work of Webb’s blogging hired hands, and his many more blogging amateurs, probably wouldn’t have mattered all that much.

Still, when Allen did begin to meltdown in August, the bloggers for Webb were already in place. Moreover, they were practiced and poised to bury Allen, which they did quite effectively. Watching the mainstream media covering the blogosphere’s role in exacerbating the Allen campaign’s meltdown was fascinating.

Note: That’s it. A look back at the making of a political upset that was felt across the nation. It was the top story for 2006 in Virginia. And, the best part is -- it had a happy ending, not unlike a Frank Capra movie.

Happy New Year!
Art by F.T. Rea

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Something strange in Staunton's water supply?

In the Daily Progress veteran political writer Bob Gibson zeroes in on the role that Rep. Virgil Goode’s now infamous anti-Muslim letter is playing in Virginia’s real world of politics, and in a somewhat distorted reflection of that world -- Virginia’s teaming blogosphere.

“...Goode’s unapologetic comments about cutting off immigration from the Middle East and warning against more Muslims in the Congress capture a spirit of anti-immigrant fervor generally popular among rank-and-file Republicans. More moderate Republicans from U.S. Sen. John W. Warner, R-Alexandria, to Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, R-Fairfax County, don’t speak for that large segment of the GOP faithful. Goode is carrying the ball for a lot of people in the economically distressed southern half of his sprawling rural district.”

Then Gibson turns his sights on a parallel brouhaha that has splattered from one edge of the blogosphere to the other over the holidays:

“...Waldo Jaquith, a prolific Charlottesville blogger on the left side of the political spectrum, drew the line at a few graphic images one of the pro-Goode, anti-Muslim bloggers posted depicting the beheading of an American in Iraq by Islamic terrorists. He removed the offending images and the blogger from his well-read political blog aggregator. Jaquith runs one of the few aggregators that shows every blog entry on about 170 Virginia political blogs - left, right, center or out there -- offering a political commons for discussion and well-rounded reading.

“Formerly known as the Virginia Political Blogs, Jaquith’s commons now appears as Waldo’s Virginia Political Blogroll, born last week after a 132-part discussion about his decision to delist the blogger who thought photos of a beheaded American added heft to his point of view.

“A few right-wing blogs named after donkeys and dogs have taken themselves out of the commons, or have been tossed out, presumably to go where grass is greener and debate is leaner, or more one-sided.”

Click here to read the entire Gibson piece.

It seems the Boycott Waldo movement was mostly centered in the Staunton area. I don’t know how many different people it really involved, but I'm left to wonder why Republicans in that part of Virginia seem so different than others?

Or, could there be a hidden reason beyond clashing brands of conservatism for a clique of rightwing bloggers to have turned on Jaquith, then their fellow Republican bloggers in the ODBA. What would make them do that?

Well, I don’t know what sort of plots may have been really been behind this situation. But maybe there’s a bizarre reason for all this bizarre behavior, a reason no one has thought of.

Maybe it’s even something as off-the-wall as this: There’s a Werner Herzog film called “Heart of Glass” (1976) that is supposedly drawn from a true story in which a whole village in Eastern Europe wigged out because a natural hallucinogen was contaminating the water supply. It put the entire population in a zombie-like trance. Sounds a little like some parties I almost remember in the 1970s, but I digress...

It’s said that director Herzog actually hypnotized the actors in order to get them to perform as strangely as they do in this movie.

So, maybe something weird has gotten into the water out there in the part of Virginia where Interstate 64 intersects with Interstate 81?

And, if some nefarious somebody did slip a mickey into the public water supply for those bloggers that Gibson mentioned -- named after donkeys and dogs -- who in hell would do such a thing?

Lefty bloggers? Communists, or maybe Muslims?

Thirty Good Years

In the 1960s, while employed as a designer/marketer at Wham-O -- the same company that had previously created the 1950s Hula Hoop craze -- Ed Headrick (1924-2002) redesigned the Frisbee. Among other things he began to stabilized it, which facilitated its conversion from a novelty toy into a rather sophisticated piece of sports equipment.

Now the visionary Headrick is seen as the father of Frisbee-golf. While it might have started as an outdoor pastime for Southern Californian hippies, his child has since become a sport played by millions of people all over the world. You say you’ve never heard of Frisbee-, or disc golf?

Well, it’s played very much like its model -- the golf game invented by men in kilts -- but with a thrown disc instead of a golf ball struck by a club. In disc golf, the tee and fairway are the same as ball golf, but instead of putting the ball into a hole in the ground the disc golfer tosses a disc at a chosen tree, or into a basket mounted on a base.

In the 1970s Headrick, also known as “Steady Ed,” quit Wham-O and began tramping across the country, evangelist-like, to spread his game and to sell its equipment he had designed -- special golf discs and then the metal baskets he patented. Virginia became one of his most fertile markets.

In 1976 the first Greater Richmond Frizbee-Golf Association course was laid out by Larry Rohr, Stew Whitham and your narrator. A Californian co-worker of Whitham’s had shown us the game’s concept to get the ball rolling ... or, perhaps I should say the Frisbee flying.

Larry has been the group’s overseer and record-keeper ever since. He has written down the scores of thousands of rounds of golf, as well as what were the given day’s weather conditions, notes about extraordinary happenings, etc., all in his little notebooks.

In 1993 Richmond’s first official Professional Disc Golf Association approved course opened at Gilles Creek in Fulton Bottom. Since then two others have been established in Henrico County -- Dorey Park and Castle Point. A new regulation course is in development in Bryan Park, at this writing. On each of these courses the tees are clearly marked and players are obliged to throw their discs into the aforementioned baskets mounted waist-high.

However, the GRFGA’s links are what is known as “object courses,” which are unmarked and thus invisible to the untrained eye. With this style of play the participants throw their discs at trees, poles, or other designated objects. Naturally, this throwback version predates the basket style.

Each of the GRFGA’s five courses are made up of nine “holes,” which conform to the same pattern: There are four par threes, four par fours and one par five. All of them are located in the Byrd Park area of Richmond, near the James River. The names of the courses are (with the year they were designed in parenthesis): Shields Lake (1976), Carillon East (1977), Maymont (1978), Carillon West (1980), Dead Dog Nine (1993).

Larry Rohr (pictured left) won the GRFGA’s first 27-hole singles tournament in the spring of 1978. The name GRFGA was invented that day, only to put at the top of the scoreboard. It was a goof. Actually, the first tournament was more of a party than anything else, but the name stuck.

Twenty years later Larry had the distinct pleasure of seeing his son, Leo Rohr, win the 42nd edition of the twice-a-year competition in the fall of 1998. Leo, now 25, began playing the sport when he was about three years old. “I remember my Dad taking me to Maymont and throwing thumb-rollers,” he says.

The tournament’s prize, a pewter cup known as The Cup (depicted in the poster above), was purchased at the old Sportsman Shop in Carytown. That was just before the fifth of the group’s singles tournaments, which was staged in 1979.

Ernie Brooks, who lives in DeeCee, has won the champion’s prize three times. He recalls taking The Cup with him to an Orioles game later in the summer of 1988: “The guy at the ticket gate said I couldn’t take it in with me, as I could throw it at a player on the field. I asked him to study The Cup, and note all the engraved names on it -- including my own -- and he completely changed his tune and said, ‘I can’t imagine someone letting go of such a nice piece.’ [He] let me pass.”

Alas, that same prize cup was passed from one winner to the next, twice a year, until Hank Brown let it go. Hank lost The Cup after winning it in the fall of 1992. Its disappearance remains a mystery.

Then, the original trophy’s replacement was passed from one winner to the next until it was retired in 1998. It was given by the group to Larry for his 50th birthday. The current singles winner’s prize, the third pewter cup, known as the Larry Rohr Cup, has been in use since.

“In my first tournament I had a two-stroke lead with three holes to play at Maymont,” says Richard Koechlein. “Larry birdied the seventh, to close within one; we parred the eighth, and he birdied the ninth, while I bogeyed it.” While Richard missed his chance that day, with his 12 first-place finishes he now has more singles tournament wins than anyone else in the informal club, which, by the way, has no dues or treasury.

At this writing the GRFGA has staged its singles championship 58 times; the current list of winners includes 15 names. They are (with number of wins in parenthesis): Bill Benish (8), Ernie Brooks (3), Hank Brown (2), Chuck Clifton (4), Jack Colan (1), Donnie Grossman (1), Richard Koechlein (12), Terry Rea (5), Larry Rohr (6), Leo Rohr (7), John Sullivan (1), Bobby Truax (1), Glen Todd (2), Doug Walker (4), Butch Walpole (1).

The tradition of regular Friday afternoon rounds at Maymont, the GRFGA’s Augusta National, began in the fall of 1978. Colleen Dee became a GRFGA regular nine years later. On a mid-1990s Friday, Colleen’s tee-shot on the ninth hole struck a hornets nest perched in an overhanging Magnolia limb. The hornets swarmed and we cleared out. Colleen’s disc remained lodged in the side of the nest.

There it stayed the rest of the summer. In time the hornets modified their nest to gradually engulf the plastic intrusion and use it like an aircraft carrier’s deck. Each Friday we’d check out the nest for changes. Of course, Larry has the episode documented on a page of one of his notebooks.

Colleen’s hornets nest disc bore little resemblance to the Frisbees used in the 1970s. Modern golf discs have sharp rather than rounded edges; they are smaller and much more dense. They also travel much faster and for more distance. Drives in excess of 500 feet are not uncommon among the top-shelf players.

However, by sticking with the original “object” concept for targets the GRFGA grew on its own, apart from the more regimented -- and admittedly more popular -- basket version of disc golf. As well, by eschewing gambling, early on, it has kept everyday GRFGA competition much more friendly than what one might find on the average ball golf course. Any sort of cheating, however minor, is so frowned upon that it is quite rare.

Moreover, the GRFGA’s style of play has facilitated holding onto something that most organized sports inevitably lose -- the natural joy that children feel playing outdoor games of their own invention, without supervision.

Of his game’s development, Steady Ed once observed: “...Thus we have a new generation of young and old whom we can welcome into our home, our parks, and yes our lives, with confidence and open arms. The vast majority set examples for others on a daily basis. They share their lives, teach others and most of all, they clean up other peoples trash!”

-- 30 --

-- Photos and art by F.T. Rea

Friday, December 29, 2006

Saddam is kaput

It is being widely reported that Saddam Hussein has been executed. The cable TV news networks are now speculating about who has his body, and what will be done with it, and so forth. Whether his death will serve the cause of peace is as unclear as it gets, but it’s easy to say the man got what was coming to him, no matter how one feels about politics or the death penalty.
Click on the 'toon to enlarge it
During America’s first war with Iraq, in 1991, I had a weekly gig doing cartoons for a magazine called “Oh” and I drew a few panels with Saddam in them. For whatever reason I haven’t done a cartoon with him in it since that time. The one above is my favorite from the Desert Storm era. It was done right after a point when Saddam had foolishly ignored a noon deadline that the first President George Bush had issued.

From the onset, I always saw blustery Saddam as a clumsy, strutting rooster of a dictator to be mocked -- as a schmuck who didn’t get it.

Well, for what it’s worth ... now he’s gotten it. Saddam is kaput.

Basketball resurrection in progress

Last night Duquesne won a basketball game in overtime. The Dukes of the mid-major A-10 outlasted the elite ACC’s Boston College Eagles: Duquesne 98, BC 93.

So what?

Here’s what: It’s a story in itself that the Dukes are even fielding a basketball team this season, so beating anybody is somewhat amazing. Stemming from a bizarre Sept. 17 shooting incident in Pittsburgh, following an on-campus party, five of Duquesne’s players suffered bullet wounds. By the way, the players were innocent victims in the melee.

Here’s an excerpt of an early October column I wrote which detailed the status of the injured players at that time; the quotes are from Dave Saba (Associate Athletic Director at Duquesne), who said then the Dukes still didn’t even have a roster they could publish:

“...Shawn James is sitting out this season following his transfer from Northeastern, as is Kojo Mensah who transferred from Siena. James [was] shot in the foot and Mensah in the arm and shoulder. Both should eventually be able to practice with the team at some point this winter. James is currently on crutches and still has to have the bullet removed from his foot. Mensah’s shoulder is still in a sling. Aaron Jackson, who was grazed on the hand by a bullet, did not miss any workouts. Junior college forward Stuard Baldonado, who was released from the hospital five days after the shooting, will have to undergo rehab. [A] bullet severed an artery in his arm, re-entered his body and barely missed his spine. His status for this season is to be determined. Sam Ashaolu is still hospitalized in serious condition - two gunshot wounds to the head.”

Last season the Dukes went 3-24, with none of their players healing from bullet wounds. That was their 12th consecutive losing season, which got the coach fired.

The Dukes new head coach Ron Everhart (Va. Tech ‘85) came in with a reputation for resurrecting moribund basketball programs, having done so at McNeese State and Northeastern. Yes, resurrection sounded like a good plan, but after the Sept. 17th shootings, this year, Coach Everhart had his work cut out for him like never before.

With the season now underway, and all that to overcome, Duquense (4-7) has already won more games than it did last season. Now get this -- last night Everhart had to do his coaching by remote control. He was in the hospital. Click here to read, “From the hospital, Everhart follows a stunning upset.”

Click here for the game’s box score. By the way, Duquense will come to the University of Richmond’s Robins Center to meet the Spiders (4-7) on Feb 14th.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Shaun Kenney now among the Bloggers for Waldo

Now comes a post from a more thoughtful conservative blogger than some out on the fringe, or perhaps some who have fallen off the map, of the right side of the blogosphere: Shaun Kenney, a resolute Republican, weighs in on the rhubarb that has been dominating many discussions within the Virginia political blogging community for the last few days. Here is an excerpt:

“...Given the opportunity to use his skills to coarsen the Virginia blogosphere, one guy actually did his best to widen the scope and create opportunities for people to take advantage of the new media: Waldo Jaquith. Folks, I'm not arguing that I agreed with the removal of GGD. Mr. Jaquith is an unabashed, socialist, commie-pinko, leftist, tree-hugging, socialist (for good measure) Democrat. So now that my conservative credentials are firmly re-established....

“Waldo is a rare example of how a partisan can still be objective and altruistic for the good of his neighbor. Considering how Waldo Jaquith could have very well been otherwise, taking the tack of his erstwhile colleagues on the left, blogs should be grateful for an even playing field.”

Click here to read Kenney’s entire take on this evolving story.

Update: A second prominent Republican blogger has agreed with Kenney’s statement. Norm Leahy at One Man’s Trash says:

“...There was a time when it seemed that people from both sides could disagree without being disagreeable. And those disagreements could be sharp, indeed. It made things interesting. It made things fun. Now, we have a whole lot less of both and that's terribly sad.”

Click here to read the entire post.

Question: Who will be the next Republican blogger to step up to the plate?

Answer: Commonwealth Conservative, J’s Notes, The Ward View

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The evolving political blogosphere

Why blog?

Why spend hours writing posts about politics and making comments on other blogs each week, or perhaps each day? Although some might say every blogger has their own unique reasons, just for the purpose of this little prediction/rant I’m going to say there are basically two kinds of political bloggers.

The first is an individual who wants to write about politics, with the hope what they have written will be read by friends, foes and strangers, alike. This brand of blogger wants to influence public policies and elections. They want to rally the faithful and persuade the undecided. They want to change minds, if they can. They are operating with a measure of the jolly spirit of the “pamphleteers” of the 1770s in America. Not unlike their forerunners, today’s citizen-journalists want as large a general readership as they can get.

The second kind is a person who wants to be part of a camp of the likeminded. These people are aiming their words at a more narrow audience. Their posts are directed at other bloggers, not so much at readers who don’t blog. They join with their colleagues to routinely attack bloggers with whom they disagree, or to slavishly support one another in tiffs in the blogosphere. They are operating in the spirit of gossipy chat rooms. They remain furious at the mainstream media 25 hours a day. This group wants to share its wisdom, or lack thereof, with others they see as “insiders.”

During 2006 these two styles have existed along side one another on two of the best known of Virginia’s aggregating sites -- Waldo’s Virginia Political Blogs and Blognet News -- but, in truth, they aren’t really all that comfortable operating under the same roof. Their styles clash.

Thus, in 2007 the political blogosphere is likely to split itself into factions that will draw lines between the bloggers in the third paragraph and those in the fourth. There will be other ways of drawing lines, too, among them are the obvious traditional political parties.

One of the things fueling the current squabble in the Virginia blogosphere between Waldo Jaquith’s supporters and his detractors is the situation I’ve described above. This brouhaha’s clash of styles has sown the seeds for the coming of aggregating sites that will split the pamphleteer bloggers off from the gossip-mongers/attack dogs.

But the aggregator that will have the most power will still be the one that features the strongest blogs from both sides of the aisle, blogs which are run by responsible people who don’t hide their identities and actually have something worthwhile to say.

The most popular political blogs aggregators will be playing a huge role in the coming year’s politics, in my view. So, this post is not so much about putting anybody down, as it is predicting the direction in which this is all heading. Whether he intended to start this process today with his post about changes at his aggregator, or not, Waldo has helped to set this scenario in motion. Now we will all see where it goes.

Me? I blog because I’m an artist/writer who wants to communicate. I’ve been on that mission, professionally, for a long time -- about 35 years. And, in the last couple of years I’ve enjoyed being a part of the political blogosphere in Virginia, as it has been. Still, a good part of my readership sees SLANTblog as serving a local crowd with a variety of interests.

Now I’m looking forward to being some small part of the new political blogosphere, which is evolving in ways no one blogger could possibly control, but some of us can’t help but guess at what it will be like.

Goode's reaction to bloggers' rhubarb

Hey, I really want to thank that anonymous blogger who insinuated creepy beheading photos onto Waldo’s blog aggregator. Defending Waldo got the Virginia lefty bloggers off my back for a few days.

Note: the ‘toon is by F.T. Rea.
Disclaimer: Goode didn’t really say that. It’s just opportunistic satire.

Five Favorite Films Lists

Flashback: Below are nine of the five favorite films lists that were posted during the year.

Five Favorite Westerns:

Lonely Are the Brave” (1962): Directed by David Miller; Cast: Kirk Douglas, Gena Rowlands, Walter Matthau
One-Eyed Jacks” (1961): Directed by Stanley Kubrick/Marlon Brando; Cast: Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Katy Jurado
Stagecoach” (1939): Directed by John Ford; Cast: John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Andy Devine
Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948): Directed by John Huston; Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt
Unforgiven” (1992): Directed by Clint Eastwood; Cast: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman

Five Favorite Cult Films:

Brazil” (1985): Directed by Terry Gilliam; Cast: Robert De Niro, Jonathan Pryce, Ian Holm
Eraserhead” (1977): Directed by David Lynch; Cast: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Allen Joseph
Paris, Texas” (1984): Directed by Wim Wenders; Cast: Harry Dean Stanton, Dean Stockwell, Nastassja Kinski
Performance” (1970): Directed by Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg; Cast: James Fox, Mick Jagger, Anita Pallenberg
Putney Swope” (1969): Directed by Robert Downey Sr.; Cast: Stan Gottlieb, Allen Garfield, Archie Russell

Five Favorite Heroic War Films:

Breaker Morant” (1980): Directed by Bruce Beresford; Cast: Edward Woodward, Jack Thompson, Bryan Brown
Das Boot” (1981): Directed by Wolfgang Petersen; Cast: Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, Klaus Wennemann
The Deer Hunter” (1978): Directed by Michael Cimino; Cast: Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Cazale
The Great Escape” (1965): Directed by John Sturges; Cast: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough
Thin Red Line” (1998): Directed by Terrence Malick; Cast: Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, James Caviezel

Five Favorite Anti-War Films:

Forbidden Games” (1952): Directed by René Clément; Cast: Brigitte Fossey, Georges Poujouly, Amédée
Grand Illusion” (1937): Directed by Jean Renoir; Cast: Jean Gabin, Dita Parlo, Pierre Fresnay
King of Hearts” (1966): Directed by Philippe de Broca; Cast: Alan Bates, Geneviève Bujold, Pierre Brasseur
Paths of Glory” (1957): Directed by Stanley Kubrick; Cast: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou
Seven Beauties” (1975): Directed by Lina Wertmüller; Cast: Giancarlo Giannini, Fernando Rey, Shirley Stoler

Five favorite Comedies:

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” (1972); Directed by Luis Buñuel; Cast: Fernando Rey, Paul Frankeur, Delphine Seyrig
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964); Directed by Stanley Kubrick; Cast: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden
Duck Soup” (1933); Directed by Leo McCarey, Cast: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Margaret Dumont
The Philadelphia Story” (1940); Directed by George Cukor; Cast Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart
The Producers” (1968): Directed by Mel Brooks; Cast: Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Kenneth Mars

Five Favorite Mysteries:

Chinatown” (1974): Directed by Roman Polanski; Cast: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston
The Conversation” (1974): Directed by Francis Ford Coppola; Cast: Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Cindy Williams
The Maltese Falcon” (1941): Directed by John Huston; Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet
The Third Man” (1949): Directed by Carol Reed; Cast: Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, Alida Valli
Z” (1969): Directed by Costa-Gavras; Cast: Yves Montand, Irene Pappas, Jean-Louis Trintignant

Five Favorite Films with Crazy Protagonists:

Aguirre, the Wrath of God” (1972): Directed by Werner Herzog; Cast: Klaus Kinski, Helena Rojo, Del Negro
Network” (1976): Directed by Sidney Lumet; Cast: Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, William Holden
Repulsion” (1965): Directed By Roman Polanski; Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser
Taxi Driver” (1976): Directed by Martin Scorsese; Cast: Robert DeNiro, Cybill Shepherd, Peter Boyle
Wise Blood” (1979): Directed by John Huston; Cast: Brad Dourif, Harry Dean Stanton, John Huston

Five favorite Rock ‘n’ Roll concert movies:

Gimme Shelter” (1970): Directed by Albert Maysles and David Maysles; Performers: The Rolling Stones, also with Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Tina Turner and more
The Last Waltz” (1978): Directed by Martin Scorsese; Performers; The Band and various guest musicians
Monterey Pop” (1968): Directed by D.A. Pennebaker; Performers: Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Simon and Garfunkel, The Mamas and Papas, Otis Redding, and more
Stop Making Sense” (1984): Directed by Jonathan Demme; Performers: Talking Heads
The T.A.M.I. Show” (1965): Directed by Steve Binder; Performers: The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, The Supremes, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Lesley Gore and more

Five favorite films that won Oscars for Best Picture:

“Casablanca” (1943): Directed by Micheal Curtiz; Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains
“Midnight Cowboy” (1969): Directed by John Schlesinger, Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Brenda Vaccaro
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975): Directed by Milos Forman; Cast: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Danny DeVito
“On the Waterfront” (1954): Directed by Elia Kazan; Cast: Marlon Brando, Lee J. Cobb, Eva Marie Saint
“Unforgiven” (1992): Directed by Clint Eastwood; Cast: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Just say ‘no’ to sabotage and slobber

Although the following story has so far been confined to the virtual world of the blogosphere, it has touched on areas that matter to us all. It is the story that started with Waldo Jaquith’s decision to remove the link to a particular blog from his Virginia Political Blogs aggregator’s blogroll on Fri., Dec. 22.

At the heart of it, the issues in play here mirror the same bewildering extremes we see all the time in the real world of gotcha politics routinely practiced inside the beltway.

As this brouhaha also weaves together real concerns about freedom of speech, fair play and where anyone transmitting/broadcasting information to the general public should draw the line on decency, it is not at all a fluff story.

To cut to the chase, dig this: Pretending in some version of political correctness that kooks and sickos who have taken to blogging are just as legit as any other blogger is a waste of time, at best.

It leads directly to the current con game, which is being executed by V-bomber (“V” for extreme violence) GGD and a small but snarling pack of his/her supporters. They howl about being denied “freedom of speech!” to defend GGD’s foisting of grisly decapitation photos on the unwitting, via Waldo’s aggregator. Yet, how many of them yap out of the other side of their mouths that burning an American flag is not political speech?

How many of the same ilk also claim that any questioning of the utterly failed war policy in Iraq has been tantamount to treason?

With all that in mind, I think we will see 2007 bringing with it a sober recognition in some quarters within the political blogging community that some obnoxious citizen-journalists/Internet self-publishers are simply up to no good. In fact, some of them would probably like to sabotage the blogosphere, to blow it up.

So, in 2007 I think we will inevitably see more movement among the sincere/honest bloggers, who actually want to discuss politics and promote ideas, to find ways to separate themselves from the obvious up-to-no-good and the likely saboteurs.

Then there’s this -- like it or not, in Virginia (as in many states) there are currently more bloggers on the left than right. And, in 2006 the lefties were much more effective, for whatever reasons. Maybe that will change with some natural correction. Or, maybe as talk-radio has remained a tool which the Republicans use better, blogging favors Democrats now and will continue to do so.

Either way, there are still thoughtful conservative and Libertarian bloggers out there who should take the time to look this “boycott Waldo” scam over, and do some thinking.

For there ever to be such a thing as a corner of the Virginia blogosphere for grownups, with a collegial spirit and a genuine sense of fair play -- a place where conflicting ideas are debated openly for readers to compare -- there will be times when you can’t simply play team ball. This isn’t an election issue.

Well, I say creating/maintaining a sane aspect of blogosphere is possible, but not easy. And, this is one of those times for those who want such a thing to exist to take a stand. So, I hope we will soon see posts from the responsible bloggers on the right side of the aisle that instruct GGD to take his/her rabid slobber down the line.

Bottom line: I predict that if key conservative bloggers do the right thing, soon, it will bring this episode to a tidy conclusion. And then, perhaps we’ll all have learned another lesson about the still-forming blogosphere -- just as in real life, if you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

Mason's Final Four run topped Virginia sports stories

The Bounce for this week looks at a few selected moments in area sports from 2006.

“...However, as my space is limited, I must cut to the chase on this topic. One sports story topped all the others for me this year. That was George Mason's wild ride to the Final Four in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. The Patriots lost to the national champion Florida Gators in the semifinal game, but on their way to that defeat they knocked off no less than Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita St. and Connecticut.”

Click here to read the whole column, by yours truly, a smorgasbord which also has stuff about the BCS National Championship, Jim Grobe, Frank Beamer and what every holiday sports column must have these days -- Terrell Owens.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Dr. Strangeblog and our precious bodily fluids

One of my all-time favorite movies is Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). The recent discussion that has been ongoing in the Virginia blogosphere, about the value and propriety of a mischievous blogger using stills of captives being beheaded by terrorists, has just reminded me of that tart Cold War black comedy.
Sterling Hayden as Gen. Jack D. Ripper
Some of the totally off-the-wall justifications for reemploying that shock-value terrorist propaganda -- snuff photos produced by vicious thugs in Iraq -- in order to defend religious intolerance in Virginia, has made me think of the absurd little speeches made by the General Jack D. Ripper character (as played by Sterling Hayden) during the film.

When I saw Dr. Strangelove as a teenager it knocked me out. It was liberating! I loved it then and still do.

The blatant and backward anti-Muslim prejudices being exhibited by some of the defenders of both Goode and the aforementioned beheading post have reminded me of the same sort of goofy anti-commie attitude -- like that of General Ripper -- which was in the air when I was growing up.

Now I think some of the tough-guy bloggers, who claim to have such a yen for spilling Muslim blood, would be happy to install Gen. Ripper as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, if they could. Their cartoon-like swagger is pure Gen. Ripper.

A few of Gen. Jack D. Ripper’s choicest lines from Dr. Strangelove are as follows:

“...Your Commie has no regard for human life. Not even his own.”

“...He [Clemenceau] said war was too important to be left to the generals. When he said that, 50 years ago, he might have been right. But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.”

“...Fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face.”

Maybe some of my readers have their own favorite Dr. Strangelove lines that I overlooked in this post?

A good year for Virginia political bloggers, but...

All in all, it’s been quite a year for Virginia’s blogosphere. Two aggregator sites were established -- Virginia Political Blogs and Blognet News -- which have magnified the reach of blogs on the left, right and wherever, by creating a new way to easily follow a particular story as it ripples across the landscape, or just peruse the news and views.

They provided an overview that had not existed before.

Two blogger confabs were held: the Sorensen’s Institute’s in Charlottesville in June, and the Blogs United in Martinsville for free Speech in August. Topics to do with political blogging were discussed; presentations were made by invited individuals who served/posed as experts.

With both conventions there were bloggers who came away from them singing the praises of the collegial spirit they found, although both events also has their critics.

There have been other efforts/proposals during the past year which sought to have bloggers from both sides of the aisle working together. Conaway Haskins’ SOB’s idea was one with merit. Another was spawned here at SLANTblog -- and pulled off with with a great deal of help from Vivian Paige -- it was a call to bloggers to try being more original for three days of posting. It was dubbed Weekend Without Echoes.

Then came the somewhat unexpected rapid tightening of the Webb vs. Allen senatorial race. A chilly, more partisan wind began to blow, as the season changed and the nation came to Virginia’s blogosphere to find out what the macaca was going on. We all watched in amazement as the originally thought-to-be-unbeatable incumbent committed YouTube suicide before our very eyes.

Since that election, the result of which tilted control of the U.S. Senate to Team Donkey, the grumbling denials of reality by the bitterest of Republican bloggers has torn at the fabric of what bloggers during the summer saw as nonpartisan, common interests.

Now, at year’s end, there’s an effort afoot in the Virginia blogosphere, coming from a handful of rightwingers who apparently want to do whatever injury they can to Virginia Political Blogs. They are currently trying to sell the absurd idea that Waldo Jaquith removed a blog from his VPB aggregator’s blog roll because the hard-hitting propaganda being used by that anonymous blogger to defend Virgil Goode’s awkward position was just too damn effective. That it had cleverly one-upped some lefty bloggers, so it had to go.

Horsefeathers! That is a cheap and dirty effort to create an instant myth out of thin air. Put it in the echo chamber and see who will believe it.

Waldo removed the material because he wanted no part of promulgating sicko material he felt was beyond the pale (decapitation photos) appearing on his web site. Remember folks, it’s his web site, he has charged no one a fee to have their posts amplified by appearing there, and he has made no promises to the bloggers.

Is this rather nefarious effort being pushed by bloggers, who are demonstrating their conclusion that having a aggregator site -- which automatically puts all their commentary beside all the commentary of their opponents -- has not been working to their benefit? Generally speaking, their repetitive fear-mongering and sloganeering to support George Allen didn’t do much to carry the day against the arguments presented by bloggers writing in support of Jim Webb.

More recently, they weren’t really helping Virgil Goode with his self-inflicted troubles much, either. Sorry, A-Team and B-Team, and GGD, but it’s true.

Then came the V-bomb (V for violence). A blogger (GGD) posted pictures of terrorists decapitating their captives, which meant they would also automatically appear on Waldo‘s aggregator site.

When Waldo saw the pictures he promptly removed them by deleting the link to the V-bomb blogger. He says that was the only quick way to get rid of the pictures on VPB.

So, the above-mentioned pack of conservative bloggers now wants to hound Waldo out of the aggregator biz, calling him a selective censor who makes his calls based on partisan considerations. Throw in some jealousy over the fact that Waldo Jaquith is frequently quoted on blogging topics by the mainstream press and you’ve got the foul-smelling witch’s brew that is bubbling in the blogosphere.

For some background on this story click here, here, and here. To find more, go to one of the aggregators mentioned above. There’s plenty to read, if you are so inclined. With some of the same spirit used to attack the Sorensen Institute’s blogger convention as being too lefty, some of the same players are again seeking to divide the burgeoning blogosphere into name-calling partisan camps.

This pack may next ask Waldo to remove their links from his links list of blogs-to-be-presented at VPB. If they object so strongly to what he is doing -- why not? However, for that ploy to pay off they would have to convince some of the more respected conservative bloggers to take up their side in this totally contrived war of words, and also push away from VPB.

Will the heavyweight conservative and Libertarian bloggers follow V-bombing GGD and his/her barking pack of supporters in trying to kill off VPB, by pulling out of Waldo's VPB blogroll?

Stay tuned ... the answer will be apparent in the next few days.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Bravo Waldo!

Recently, in a conversation with an art professor friend I mentioned Waldo Jaquith’s name. My friend had asked me about political bloggers and what’s going on with that. This guy generally doesn’t read blogs, but he’s seen SLANTblog, so he asked.

As I get questioned about blogging often enough, I can now deliver a spiel that gives a person with no knowledge of the subject an overview of sorts. But this time I added something -- I told him that the aggregators, such as Jaquith’s Virginia Political Blogs, are a hybrid form of editing, publishing and broadcasting that is fascinating.

Then I went on to say that in my view some of the smartest aggregators are soon going to become important political players, just as a handful of political bloggers have done in the last three years.

Last night Waldo (pictured left) was tested. For the first time he found himself in the role of being an editor/censor who had to say “no,” and he didn’t like it a bit.

Well, let me say up front that my take on this simmering brouhaha is that he acted as a responsible editor/publisher should. He decided to remove some sicko material from the VPB page that his sense of decency told him he wanted no part of promulgating.

Even though Waldo doesn’t oversee the material presented on his aggregator -- as it appears there automatically -- once he has knowledge of the nature of such material, he is morally responsible for what it presents, if not legally.

When I first saw the offensive material at VPB -- graphic decapitation pictures and other trash posted supposedly in support of Goode’s recent attack on Muslims -- I immediately knew it would test Waldo’s limits in a new way. As I wrote something about how crazy it is getting in the old blogosphere, once again, I wondered what he would do about the stuff -- it was rough!

Then I saw that the posts with the above-mentioned material had been removed from the aggregator. I was glad. (If you want to see what was removed click here; then click on some of the previous posts. But be warned -- it is unpleasant to view.)

Now Waldo is wondering whether to just shut down the VPB site (click here to read his thoughts on this), rather than continue to have to deal with such vexations. Well, I don’t blame him for considering it.

Then again, this uncouth blogger who forced his hand would probably like to be known as the ultra-conservative virtual terrorist/prankster who blew Waldo Jaquith’s Virginia Political Blogs to smithereens. Furthermore, I don’t doubt that some rightwingers, in some dark corners of the blogosphere now view VPB as having helped the left more than the right, because they think lefty bloggers defeated George Allen.

However, it would be a sad end to this episode to see a sleazy tactic which mimics terrorism in its spirit succeed by making Waldo pull the plug on his much-appreciated creation. My hope is that he will see this as a bump in the road and just drive around it.

Virginia Political Blogs is an asset to Virginians, and a boon to free speech.


Update: There’s an effort afoot in the blogosphere -- coming from rightwing bloggers who apparently want to do injury to an aggregating web site they now see as their enemy -- to sell the idea that Waldo removed the GGD site from his aggregator’s blogs-to-be-presented list because the propaganda being used by GGD was just so damn effective. That it had one-upped some lefty bloggers, so it had to go.

That is a cheap and dirty effort to create an instant myth out of thin air.

Rather than continue to have their asses kicked at Virginia Political Blogs, a forum that presents whole arguments in a left vs. right vs. whatever, freewheeling format, they have decided to try to undermine that forum’s influence.

Thus, Virginia Political Blog’s editor/publisher should not overlook the possibility that he is being conned by some opportunistic/bitter-about-defeat bloggers who, among other petty grievances, are envious of his well-deserved position in the blogging world.
Photo: Sorensen Institute

Friday, December 22, 2006

Goode story flushing out sicko wing of the GOP

The story of the outing of Virgil Goode as a narrow-thinking man, with a sadly out-of-date prejudice against a religious faith outside his grasp of what is valid, has gained quite a bit of traction. Coast-to-coast political junkies are wondering what is going on in Virginia.

As well they should. And, this story has enlivened the Virginia blogosphere like nothing since the now legendary Macaca Gaffe that began the spectacular unraveling of Sen. George Allen’s political career.

As it happened then, both reasonable conservative bloggers and rightwing kook bloggers have rushed to the defense of a Republican under attack. With that in mind my suggestion to SLANTblog readers is that you take a few minutes to peruse the Virginia blogosphere to sample what is being posted in defense of Goode’s position, since blogs are once again driving this story you may see tomorrow’s headlines today.

You also may be a bit surprised. Beyond the reasonable, some of what has emerged is vulgar and shocking. No doubt, Republicans who are sophisticated enough to know what I’m driving at here are wishing they could stuff this toothpaste back into its tube. But in this age of instant karma, it’s way too late for that.

Some of the thoughts about religious tolerance, or lack thereof, that have been evidenced in the last couple of days by supporters of Goode’s attack on Muslims are scary like a white hood with eyeholes in it is scary. By the way, the worst of it is coming from the same book-burning ilk that was attacking Senator-elect Jim Webb as a writer of pornography two months ago. Now, they seem ready to re-fight The Crusades.

Click on the link to go to Waldo Jaquith’s handy aggregator of Virginia political blogs of all stripes -- Virginia Political Blogs. If you just want to go directly to a quick sampling of the sort of claptrap I’m talking about, then click here, here, here. For the absolute worst of the lot (sicko warning!), click here.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Goode's fear

“I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States”
-- U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode, Virginia’s 5th Congressional District

Update: Waldo Jaquith has been all over this mushrooming story from the get-go. Click here for his latest round-up of the national coverage.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Area hoops results

On its Siegel Center home court VCU opened its Colonial Athletic Association season tonight against Delaware. The game was a mismatch, as the Rams just wore out the Blue Hens: VCU 79, Delaware 60.

VCU (9-2, 1-0 in CAA) has now won seven straight games. Junior transfer Wil Fameni (Arizona State), 6-7, 240, had his best game in a Rams uniform, so far, with 23 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in 34 minutes on the floor.

Meanwhile, about four miles west at the Robins Center, the visiting Virginia Military Institute Keydets defeated the Richmond Spiders: VMI 93, UR 84. And, down in Puerto Rico, the University of Virginia dropped a second game in two days: Utah 94, UVa. 70.

The return of James S. “Jaws” Gilmore III

James S. “Jaws” Gilmore III is back in the news. He’s thinking about running for president in 2008, or so he says. It’s also said he is considering another run for governor in Virginia in 2009.

Well, I can’t imagine another candidate Democrats would rather run against in either election. And, I must wonder which Republicans in their right minds, or left, have actually asked Gilmore to run for president, or any other office. I suspect it’s mostly his idea.

Perhaps the reader wonders why I slapped the nickname “Jaws” on Jim Gilmore. Well, a little over five years ago, when his own dismal disapproval ratings as governor were below sea level, he launched a commission, a Shark Task Force, to study the peril of shark attacks on Virginians.

With the news of a pair of shark attacks off the nearby coast, Gilmore must have thought he heard opportunity knocking on the door. Immediately, the semi-savvy player donned an imaginary pith helmet and khaki shark-hunting outfit to strike a pose. Standing in defiance of an enemy that no one could possibly defend, Gilmore must have imagined his popularity would soon soar again.

Note: Washington Business Journal (SEPT. 5, 2001): “In response to the recent shark attacks at Virginia Beach and in North Carolina, Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore has convened a task force to examine the issue. The shark task force will be headed by Secretary of Natural Resources John Paul Woodley, State Del. Terrie Suit (R-Virginia Beach) and several marine experts ... Florida Gov. Jeb Bush recently said that the media attention to the recent spate of attacks is overblown.”

Blithely ignoring the sitting president’s brother, Gilmore might have cocked his pith helmet to one side, to listen to what sounded like, “Knock, knock...”

In 1997 Gilmore had galloped to triumph with his No-More-Car-Tax mantra. Virginians liked his blue collar style. Then, as governor, he stubbornly stayed on that same tired workhorse issue through his four-year term, until it collapsed in a heap in the spring of 2001. Meanwhile, Gilmore’s handling of the Hugh Finn right-to-die-with-dignity case was diabolically clumsy; his handling of the Sally Mann censorship flap at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was bull-in-a-china-shop clumsy.

So, with some justification Governor Gilmore is mostly remembered for his stubbornness and his awkwardness. Yet, his boldest move of all -- the Shark Task Force -- should not be forgotten.

“Knock, knock....”

“Who’s there?” Gilmore may have whispered, thinking he heard the shark musical theme from the movie “Jaws” playing in the background.

Two months after the launching of Gilmore’s Shark Task Force, Republican Mark Earley lost in Virginia, handing the keys to the Governor’s Mansion to Democrat Mark Warner. Gilmore wasn’t National Chairman of the Grand Old Party long enough to do much more than be remembered for being fired, and, of course, denying that he was fired.

Note: USA Today (Nov. 30, 2001): “Gilmore resigned, effective in January, saying he wasn’t willing to commit to the extensive travel and time away from family required to prepare for the 2002 elections. He leaves after less than a year in office, a period marked by disappointing elections...”

Well, as history unfolded, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 overshadowed all else in the news for a long time. So, lame duck Gilmore and his Virginia Shark Task Force’s findings were ignored on December 14, 2001.

Furthermore, the first sentence of the VSTF report sort of made it unnecessary to read the rest of it. Note: “In more than 390 years since the English settlement of Virginia there had never been a fatal shark attack in Virginia waters until September 1, 2001 when a 10-year old boy named David Peltier was attacked near the Little Island Fishing Pier at Sandbridge...”

The report went on to say that sharks usually live in the ocean and every now and then one of them bites a person who is also in the ocean.

Soon, late at night, presidential hopeful Gilmore may hear a familiar sound. “Knock, knock...”

Putting his ear to the door, Gilmore might ask, “Who’s there?”

From the other side of the door the shark music will be there, again. But maybe this time there be more -- a voice! It’s a voice sounding something like a popular former Saturday Night Live guest host, Sen. John McCain.


-- 30 --

Goode digs in his xenophobic heels

On its web site the Richmond Times-Dispatch is now reporting:

“U.S. Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. will not apologize to Islamic groups upset about a letter he wrote that decries the migration of Muslims to America, his press aide said today. ‘He stands by the letter,’ said Linwood Duncan, aide to the 5th-district Republican."

Click here to read the text of the now infamous Goode letter, via C-Ville Weekly. Click here to read the whole RT-D article.

“...Duncan said Goode wrote the letter earlier this month in response to hundreds of e-mails he had received from constituents concerned about Muslim Rep.-elect Keith Ellison's decision to use the Quran in his swearing-in ceremony. One of the letters miscarried, and its contents have been plastered online across the blogosphere.”

Hundreds of emails?” Hmm... So Virgil Goode, ever the opportunist, has dug in his xenophobic heels. He must think the voters in and around Charlottesville, Farmville, Danville and the rest of Virginia’s 5th Congressional District have got his back.

Now I wonder -- in 2006, do they?

Cool's Stretch

Ed Note: An earlier version of this piece was published by STYLE Weekly in 2002. It’s about an adolescent boy’s yearning to be “cool,” and delving into the nature of what was seen as cool in the time a little before the explosion of ‘60s popular culture began to reshape the term’s meaning.

Cool’s Stretch
by F.T. Rea

The prototype was assembled during a lull in seventh grade shop class. After tying some 15 rubber bands together to make a chain, a collaborator held one end of the contraption as I stepped back to stretch it out for a test. Squinting to sight along the taut line to take proper aim, finally, I let go.

The whole thing gathered itself and shot past the holder. The released tip smartly struck a target several feet beyond the holder. While the satisfaction I felt was a rush, the encouragement from the boys who witnessed that launching felt transforming.

Through a pleasant sequence of trial-and-error experiments, it was soon determined how to best maximize distance and accuracy. Once guys across the room were getting popped with the bitter end of my brainchild -- dubbed The Stretch -- the spitballs that routinely flew around classrooms in 1960 at Albert H. Hill Junior High -- were strictly old news.

The following morning, uncharacteristically, I appeared on the schoolyard an hour before the first bell. Inside a brown paper bag I had with me an updated version of the previous day’s invention. This one was some 60 links long -- the Big Stretch.

Once it was tested on the schoolyard, demonstrating its amazing new range, boys were soon shoving one another aside just to act as holders. Most of the time I did the shooting. Occasionally, one of the guys from my inner circle was permitted to be the shooter. As the wonder whizzed by it made such a splendid noise that just standing close by the holder was a thrill, too. On the asphalt playground behind the yellow brick school building an enthusiastic throng cheered each flight.

The Big Stretch went on to make an appearance at an afternoon football game, where its operators established to the delight of the audience that cheerleaders on the sideline at a football game could be zapped on their bouncing butts with impunity from more than 25 yards away. After a couple of days of demonstrations around the neighborhood and at Willow Lawn shopping center, again, I significantly lengthened the chain of rubber bands.

But the new version -- about 100 rubber bands long -- proved too heavy for its own good. It was not as accurate or powerful as the previous model. Then came the morning a couple of beefy ninth-grade football players weren’t content with taking a single turn with the new Big Stretch. Although there was a line behind them they demanded another go.

Surrounded by seventh-grade devotees of the Big Stretch, I stood my ground and refused. But my fair-weather-friend entourage was useless in a pinch. Faced with no good options, I fled with my claim-to-fame in hand. In short order I was cornered and pounded until the determined thieves got the loot they wanted. They fooled around for a while trying to hit their buddies with it. Eventually, several rubber bands broke and the Big Stretch was literally pulled to pieces and scattered.

By then my nose had stopped bleeding, so I gathered my dignity and shrugged off the whole affair, as best I could. I choose not to make another version of the Big Stretch. A couple of other kids copied it, but nobody seemed to care. Just as abruptly as it gotten underway, the connected-rubber-band craze ran out of gas at Hill School.

It was over.

At that time the slang meaning of “cool” had an underground cachet which has been stretched out of shape since. We’re told the concept of cool, and the term itself, seeped out of the early bebop scene in Manhattan in the ‘40s. That may be, but to me the same delightful sense of spontaneity and understated defiance seems abundantly evident in forms of expression that predate the Dizzy Gillespie/Thelonious Monk era at Minton’s, on 118th Street.

Wasn’t that Round Table scene at the Algonquin Hotel, back in the ‘20s, something akin to cool? If Dorothy Parker wasn’t cool, who the hell was? And, in the decades that preceded the advent of bebop jazz, surely modern art -- with its cubism, surrealism, constructivism, and so forth -- was laying down some of the rules for what became known as cool.

Cool’s zenith had probably been passed by the time I became enamored with the Beats, via national magazines. Widespread exposure and cool were more or less incompatible. Significantly, cool -- with its ability to be flippant and profound in the same gesture -- rose and fell without the encouragement of the ruling class. Underdogs invented cool out of thin air. It was a style that was beyond what money could buy.

The artful grasping of a moment’s unique truth was cool. However, just as the one-time-only perfect notes blown in a jam session can’t be duplicated, authentic cool was difficult to harness; even more difficult to mass-produce.

By the ‘70s, the mobs of Hippies attuned to stadium Rock ‘n’ Roll shrugged nothing off. Cool was probably too subtle for them to appreciate. The Disco craze ignored cool. Punk Rockers searched for it in all the wrong places, then caught a buzz and gave up.

Eventually, in targeting self-absorbed Baby Boomers as a market, Madison Avenue promoted everything under the sun -- including schmaltz, and worse -- as cool. The expression subsequently lost its moorings and dissolved into the soup of mainstream vernacular. Time tends to stretch slang expressions thin as they are assimilated; pronunciations and definitions come and go.

Now people say, “ku-ul,” simply to express ordinary approval of routine things.

The process of becoming cool, then popular, pulled the Big Stretch to pieces. Once the experimental aspect of it was over it got old, like any worn out joke. Then it began to play as just another showoff gimmick, which was something less-than-cool, even to seventh-graders a long time ago.

-- 30 --