Saturday, September 30, 2006

Gerner is listening to performing arts ideas in Richmond

This message came in from Don Harrison of Save Richmond:

"John Gerner, who was brought in by the mayor so that there could be actual arts professionals working on the Carpenter renovation and the arts center deal, is looking for ideas, suggestions, complaints, etc. and is waiting to hear from people. You can be anonymous if you want."

From John Gerner:

"Everyone with constructive information and ideas can e-mail me directly or use the contact page. All messages sent to the address or from the web form come directly to me alone. An additional benefit of the fill-in email form on this web page is that the return address box is optional. Someone can send me a message using this web page and it is totally anonymous."

Harrison winds it up with this:

"[Gerner] needs to know that there are people out there concerned about the direction of the project, and especially from those who are wary of the VAPAF's approach. He’s listening and he has the ear of the mayor (supposedly). So, if you have a moment, and an idea or a complaint or comment to share about where the city should go on this, bend Gerner’s ear."

Allen's self-inflicted wounds

Richmond Times-Dispatch political writer Jeff E. Schapiro analyzes the new Mason-Dixon poll in “Senate race a dead heat poll shows.”

“Virginia’s down-and-dirty U.S. Senate race is a dead heat. George Allen, the embattled Republican incumbent, and Democrat Jim Webb are both pulling 43 percent among likely voters, according to a new MSNBC/McClatchy Poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. of Washington.”

“...The poll suggests that Allen, hammered since August by allegations of racial insensitivity, faces a perilous political landscape in the 5½ weeks before Election Day. Allen’s lopsided advantage in fundraising and organization could help in the stretch against Webb, a Navy secretary in the Reagan administration whose main theme is his opposition to the Iraq war -- identified in the poll as the top concern of Virginians.”

Beyond what the savvy Schapiro had to say I must add this: No doubt, Allen’s dramatic fall from a 16-point lead in July has shocked and disappointed his followers. It has surely emboldened his opponent’s poorly financed campaign, which seemed stalled only seven weeks ago. But the most important thing to remember is that Allen’s lead disappeared because of self-inflicted wounds.

Allen’s performances in front of video cameras rolling tape opened the wounds, in both Breaks and in McLean. Rather than applying stitches and bandages to those cuts, Allen’s camp -- chiefly its official spokesman, Dick Wadhams -- went aggressive, trying to blame and punish the Webb camp and the so-called liberal media for the bleeding, which continued to spurt away Allen’s percentage points.

Foolishly, Allen’s most ardent bloggers have continued that tactic, oblivious to the obvious truth -- no one is buying it, except themselves. So the bleeding has never stopped.

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?

It seems Wadhams only knows one way to play the game -- deflect all trouble by blaming it entirely on the prevaricating opponent. Well, that won’t always work. Sometimes, such childishness just pisses people off. This time it has.

At this desk it looks like Allen’s camp, with its blogging team aspect, has hurt Allen nearly as much as YouTube has, but still not close to how much as the candidate has hurt himself.

The contrast between the George Allen on YouTube and the aw-shucks, Southern gentleman public image he has fashioned for himself over the last 25 years is stark. And, some part of the reason that contrast remains so newsworthy is that his chattering apologists won’t stop pretending they can’t see it.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Best annual outdoor party in Richmond

The Bopcats (1995)
Music lovers, barbeque addicts, people watchers and party animals should remember to set aside next Saturday afternoon, Oct. 7, for High on the Hog 30. What has grown into an institution started in 1977. It all happens every year on Libby Hill, east of Richmond’s Downtown.

The four bands booked for this year’s mammoth party represent a worthy best-of-the-early-’80s show, in that they all played the event in that era. And, all were quite popular for good reasons. They are: The Bopcats, The Memphis Rockabilly Band, the Good Humor Band and the Billy Price Band.

Click here to visit the High on the Hog 30 web site to get all the details regarding directions, the day's schedule, etc.
Bill Coover of the Memphis Rockabilly Band (1984)

Art: F.T. Rea

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Dogged by Monkeys

Having gotten an inquiry earlier today from a blogger I’d never have imagined would be interested in the availability of a particular T-shirt of mine, I want to say, yes, “Pay No Attention to the Monkeys on My Back,” with a rather haggard-looking George Allen on it, is still available to Republicans with a sense of humor for the same price it is to Democrats or Libertarians.

Perhaps Kilo, the inquiring blogger, has seen the cover of The Weekly Standard which (see below) features a variation of my image’s concept on it and it sparked, so to speak, a sudden interest in my political art. (Yes, mine was published first.) The cover story itself, written by Matthew Continetti, is an eye-opener, considering the magazine is known as a leading neoconservative voice.
Here’s an except of “George Allen Monkeys Around: Forget the presidential campaign. Can he still win his Senate Race?”

“...As it turns out, a bunch of folks. In recent weeks, Allen has gone from presidential contender to embattled senator. His mishandling of a name-calling incident, and his ham-handed denial and subsequent revelation that his mother was raised Jewish, have almost eliminated him from the field of serious presidential candidates and even jeopardized his Senate seat. While still trailing in the polls, Allen's Democratic opponent, the author and former secretary of the Navy James Webb, has pulled within striking distance.”

Now I want to remind political aficionados, who enjoy campaign collectables, there are currently two designs available online through cafepress which have my ‘toons imprinted on them; the other one has a caricature of Dick Cheney with the line, “All Dick, All the Time.” To see the preview page with those two designs, plus other non-political images, click here.

Over the last 20-some years I have published a few sets of illustrated cards, each featuring a series of my 'toons on a topic. One which was particularly popular was the series of 15 'toons based on the 1994 Virginia Senatorial race, which you can read about and view by clicking here. Check out the 12-year-old Larry Sabato caricature. Sabato liked it enough to buy the original art and 12 sets of cards.

Kudos to Paige and Haskins; updated

Thanks to Vivian Paige and Conaway Haskins III the aspects of the blogosphere that have recently been trying to gain an advantage on their opponents by throwing or dodging muddy words dredged up from decades past have been chastised. And, deservedly so. Paige and Haskins have politely thrown a well-timed penalty flag at the Virginia blogosphere with an identical post on their blogs.

“...Some have used this inquiry as an opportunity to throw around racial epithets themselves. We contend that doing so is reflective of the lack of racial sensitivity that both candidates have indicated that they had in the past. Further, we contend that this desensitizes the readers to the real issues of race that are still with us. We find such behavior unacceptable and implore our colleagues to refrain from engaging in such behavior.”

Please allow me to echo (pun intended) the sentiments of Paige and Haskins. They are thoughtful Virginia political writers who publish blogs. As both are also black their perspective on the style and tactics partisan bloggers have been using recently comes from a different angle than most of those with the wet mud on their hands.

Far too often both the accusations and the denials about whether particular words were used decades ago have sounded cravenly exploitative. Using such tactics trivializes matters to do with race, in general. Which hardly serves the cause of improving race relations, if that’s really what concerns those bloggers reaching for another mud-ball as you read this.

Update: In my compliment of the post by Vivian and Conaway I had hoped to stay nonpartisan. But, of course, that’s not allowed by some who imagine themselves to be political pundits. As I’ve already seen comments trying to undermine their civil scolding of the Virginia blogosphere by some bloggers perpetually angry about the obviously newsworthy truth -- Sen. George Allen shot himself in both boots in the last six weeks, first at Breaks, then during the debate in McLean -- more needs to be said.

The aforementioned incidents in which Allen made the news himself, mostly with his displays of bullying and bad form, were not just about racist words or ethnicity issues from the distant past. Both were matters of revealing behavior during a campaign.

One can’t lump those two events in with the ridiculous safari that’s been underway to find evidence of racism in the words and deeds of either candidate in his schooldays. At least you can’t, if fairness matters.

Updated at 3:15 p.m., same day

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

T.O. tries to kill himself?

Here’s a story that might go off in any direction. AP reports that Terrell Owens tried to commit suicide:

“Terrell Owens tried to kill himself by overdosing on pain medication, even putting two more pills into his mouth after a friend intervened, according to a police report obtained Wednesday. The report said Owens was asked by rescue workers ‘if he was attempting to harm himself, at which time (he) stated, ‘Yes.’ The Dallas police report said the 32-year-old Owens told his friend ‘that he was depressed.’”

Owens broke a bone in his hand in a Sept. 16 game in Dallas against Washington that the Cowboys won. Depressed? Is Owens’ stormy pro football career over? Will the Redskins be the last team he faced?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Allen, the Chameleon

Some say all we need to know about Sen. George Allen is how he votes on bills in the Senate. Ideologues, of the left or right, see Allen’s reliable support of the Bush administration’s agenda as the most important thing to know about him. Therefore, their affection for the man Allen is, or lack of it, has little to do with his heart and mind. What’s inside the Republican suit George Allen wears matters little to them.

Yet, on the heels of recent revelations, many other people are asking: Do Virginians know the real Sen. George Allen? After all, most of us aren’t ideologues. Most voters do care about the true beliefs and the character of their elected officials.

What I want to know is this: Is Allen a social and political chameleon, a native Californian forever striving to be a Southern good ol’ boy? Moreover, does he actually have any true beliefs?

When Allen first appeared on the political horizon he was the son of a well-known professional football coach. His father, George Allen the head coach, had taken the Washington Redskins to the Super Bowl in 1973 (Miami 14, Washington 7). As an undergraduate at the University of Virginia George Allen, the son, had been a backbench quarterback.

Now, I’m not saying what Allen did as a child in California, or as a college student in Charlottesville, is off limits. What I am saying is that short of extreme behavior, I’m not all that concerned with evidence of Allen’s awkwardness as a chameleon in the 1970s. Yes, some of it may be funny at his expense, so I’ll laugh. Some of it may well have been foreshadowing to what we see now, so I’ll note that, too. But I’ll not dwell on it.

The truth is in the 1970s many white athletes and sports aficionados in Virginia used racist language in their casual conversations. Some of it was mild, some was extreme. How many of them did it to fit in, and how many of them did it to express their heartfelt hatred is something I’ll never know. During that era I played a lot of basketball and softball and I heard plenty of it hanging around with jocks. On several occasions when the talk was extreme and I felt obligated to voice an objection, or turn my back and walk away, the culprit was not from Virginia.

Yes, the most foul-mouthed racist blather I heard frequently emanated from men who had recently moved to Virginia from New Jersey, or Massachusetts, or wherever. They always seemed surprised that a Southern white guy, who played sports and liked to have a beer afterward, could be offended by their language.

So, if in the 1970s young George Allen acted exactly like one of those jocks who’d moved here and assumed he would be accepted more readily by talking like a throwback to the days of Jim Crow, he was not unusual. Allen, the politician, has always come across as just that sort of phony to me. I’m not a bit surprised that he’s turned out to be a George Bush toady, just as he was once an admirer of Southern politicians who were Massive Resisters.

The pattern has been that Allen, the faux cowboy, needs to fit in with people in power.

In the last six weeks Allen has twice been caught on video tape acting like a bully. Both incidents had to do with ethnicity, a subject that seems to bring out the worst in Allen. His recent moves to say he had no idea the Confederate flag was still upsetting to many black citizens are either laughable or galling, depending on one’s point of view. But such moves fit his pattern of saying whatever he figures will keep him in a seat close to those in power. Now he and Benny Lambert are pals.

Yet, as reporters who’ve covered him know, Allen has an excellent memory and he’s always been quite aware of the various tides of Virginia’s political history. So, when he says he just forgot, or that he didn’t know what a potent symbol meant, well...

Still, just as I think it is silly to hammer Allen’s opponent, Jim Webb, to do with what he said about females in the military in the 1970s, I’ll pass on piling on over what Allen may have said in private conversations in that same time.

At the same time, to suggest that Allen will withdraw from the race over this brouhaha is a silly distraction that undermines the credibility of anyone who promotes that notion. Alas, it seems no one has cornered the market on silliness.

To win, serious Democrats must make the choice simple -- Allen is a total phony, a Bush ditto. Webb is authentic, he does his own thinking.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A-Team's cartoon reach

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.

Well, it says here the person who made this post has no idea what he/she is talking about, art-wise, history-wise, or any other way you want to slice it. To compare an amateurish handbill which mocked Harris Miller about his role as a wealthy lobbyist to anything from the 1930s to do with Nazis and Streicher is pitifully absurd.

My best advice to the A-Team is to go back to ranting about Webb being a "fiction-writer" and stay away from posing as if you know something about a subject you clearly don’t.

Hail to Mark Brunell!

Hail to the Redskins! Washington 31, Houston 15.

No doubt, that song was sung in many rooms this afternoon. And, some of those singing, while cheerfully hoisting their adult beverages, were saying only yesterday that Washington quarterback Mark Brunell’s play was the chief reason the team was winless this season. Some fair-weather Redskins fans even published their wishes that he’d receive a career-ending injury in today’s game.

Yet, in today’s action in Houston, Brunell established a new all-time record for consecutive passes completed in a NFL game -- 22 in a row -- when he hit Santana Moss in the third quarter for a six-yard gain. Given a little time to maneuver by his offensive line Brunell looked like an All-Pro today.

Given how he was blistered this past week on the sports-talk airwaves, Brunell is entitled to enjoy an adult beverage or two, himself. Today the offense was crisp and efficient. I don’t know what role Al Saunders played in the transformation. What I saw today was a team that looked like a Joe Gibbs-coached team.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Suddenly dancing to klezmer music

Writing for the Daily Progress longtime political reporter Bob Gibson calmly makes sense of the brouhaha that has had some aspects of the Virginia blogosphere spewing nonsense since Monday.

In spite of the efforts by Sen. George Allen’s spinning handlers and relentless bloggers to paint another episode of Allen’s bullying behavior in public as a gallant attempt to protect his suffering mother, in “Discovering, embracing a heritage” Gibson has no trouble seeing through the fog of bluster.

“...Politically, he publicly accepted his Jewish family roots at the proverbial point of a gun, first angrily dancing around the question at the Sept. 18 debate but chastising his panelist questioner for her marginally relevant query. Allen’s sudden burst of pride was clearly pried out of him by reporters.

That Allen had not previously acknowledged or inquired about his Jewish ancestry made his non-denial, and his quite indignant attack on his live-TV debate questioner, a sudden topic of intense speculation. Allen’s campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, famous for quietly employing paid bloggers two years ago in South Dakota, is accusing paid bloggers for Jim Webb, Allen’s Democratic challenger, of anti-Semitism for discussing Allen’s response and subsequent sudden acknowledgment of his ancestry.

“Every time Allen lashes out in anger or bares his temper, it’s news now that his undenied White House ambitions are attached to his bid for a second Senate term.”

Don’t be surprised if Allen’s camp calls Gibson names, in an effort to muddy the water yet again. Don’t be surprised if Allen’s professional bloggers and wannabe professional bloggers follow suit, with righteous indignation bubbling over.

At my desk, it’s been a hoot watching a pack of white-bread right-wingers, many of whom we know damn well have cared not a whit about anti-Semitism before this week, suddenly dancing to klezmer music and wearing yarmulkes to hurl anti-Semitic accusations at Jim Webb. In most cases I’d say such convenient concern for the plight of Jews in Virginia, or anywhere else, is about as authentic as Allen’s contrived Southern gentleman/good ol’ boy image.

Kudos to Gibson for setting the record straight.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Hinkle lectures pseudo-conservatives

Now comes A. Barton Hinkle to remind today’s pseudo-conservatives, neoconservatives and opportunistic right-wingers that with the Cold War in the rear view mirror some of them have wandered many miles from the high road traveled by Barry Goldwater when he was establishing the modern conservative movement in the 1960s. In an OpEd piece, “Defining ‘The Good Guys’: In War on Terror, U.S. Embraces Great Terror’s Techniques . . . ,” in Friday’s Richmond Times Dispatch Hinkle opens with this:

“So this is what conservatism in America has come to. The movement that spent half a century loudly and rightly denouncing communism for the sadism of its torture and the savagery of its gulags is now -- with some notable exceptions -- advocating that America embrace them.”

Hinkle then drives his point home:

“...Well, say the administration’s defenders, unlike the Soviets we're the good guys. That begs the question, doesn’t it? What made the Soviets the bad guys? They had a ridiculously inefficient economic system, yes -- but most conservatives were rather more exercised by the sadism of the Lubyanka and the gulag than they were by the labor theory of value or Gosplan’s theory of productive forces. Defending torture by saying we’re the good guys is an oxymoron.”

Bringing the piece home Hinkle invokes the name of the Godfather of American conservatism’s rather Libertarian answer to post-Depression liberal thinking:

“...No, the torture question is a straightforward one about right and wrong and choosing between the two. It is about whether this country still believes in abiding by its moral duty no matter the cost. ‘Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,’ as Barry Goldwater said. ‘Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.’”

This well-crafted essay about right and wrong in the post-9/11 world should be read in its entirety. It left me wondering if many of President Bush’s neoconservative advisors have the slightest idea of what the expression, “the moral high ground” even means. It also left me wondering how many voters today have any sense of what the term “conservative” meant before we began to be told every day by the Bush administration that 9/11 had changed everything.

If it’s true that 9/11 destroyed our ability to know that in our hearts that it’s right to stand against torture and wrong to defend it, we, as a people, have indeed lost our way ... what used to be the American way.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Allen’s faux persona is coming unglued

In the modern world those who live in the public eye, people who benefit from being celebrity public officials, do not have the privacy of a quiet individual, going about his own business. Thus, candidates are asked awkward questions all the time.

Yes, we want to see politicians tested in press conferences and debates because we know the focus-group driven images presented in their campaign advertising can’t be trusted much. With good reason we want to see how they perform under stress, without their handlers there to mop up their spills.

Having claimed Peggy Fox (the reporter) was “making aspersions” [sic] by merely asking him about his grandfather’s religious background, Sen. George Allen now wants to transform himself into the downtrodden victim of anti-Jewish treatment from the Webb camp. Jeff E. Schapiro, the Richmond Times-Dispatch political columnist, notes the efforts by Allen’s camp to reverse its man’s plummeting momentum by portraying him as the injured party.

“U.S. Sen. George Allen, R-Va., is accusing challenger Jim Webb of anti-Semitism for spotlighting Allen’s newly acknowledged Jewish ancestry on Democratic blogs. ‘There is a common thread that is running through the Webb campaign,’ Allen campaign manager Dick Wadhams said yesterday. ‘It has a clear anti-Semitic overtone to it.’”

At Monday’s debate in McLean candidate Allen angrily evaded the now famous question about his maternal grandfather. 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.

After years of his carefully crafted public image passing for real, Allen’s faux persona is coming unglued before our eyes.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Nobody told Allen there’d be days like this

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. WUSA-TV's Peggy Fox asked Allen:

“It has been reported your grandfather Felix, whom you were given your middle name for, was Jewish. Could you please tell us whether your forebearers include Jews and, if so, at which point Jewish identity might have ended?”

Listening to the audio track one hears booing from the audience. Looking at the video one sees a stunned George Allen.

Surely in his long career in politics the former congressman and governor has heard many an odd question. Some of them were bound to have been designed to piss him off, to knock him off kilter. That question about his family background could hardly have been among the toughest or strangest questions he’s faced in a debate. Yet, Allen’s reaction was to puff up with righteous indignation and immediately try to turn the crowd against the questioner. This move fit right in with the aforementioned image of him lording it over the Webb tracker/camera man, S.R. Sidarth.

Instead of promptly saying that he is indeed aware of having Jewish ancestors, or that he is not, Allen moved obliquely to say:

“To be getting into what religion my mother is, I don’t think is relevant. Why is that relevant?

Then Allen blew the question off. Why he acted as if asking a public figure about his grandfather’s religion was an invasion of his privacy remains unexplained. He acted as if Fox was trying, in an underhanded way, to reveal a dark secret. Allen seemed to feel that if he had a Jewish grandfather, it was something he had a right to hide.

Once again, it was recorded on video. How Allen will spin this is anybody’s guess. So far, his comments have been worse than useless to his cause. Yes dear reader, Sen. George Allen seems to be unraveling before our eyes.

After this election season is over, perhaps we’ll find out there was some sort of stress on Allen that we don’t know about now. Or, perhaps all his years of his posing as something he’s not, a Southern gentleman/aw-shucks cowboy, has worn him out.

Whatever the reason for his self-destructive behavior, there no denying that Allen has let Jim Webb into the race. If Democrats in Virginia had known that Allen was going to turn into his own worst enemy in the fall, there would have been more of them willing to run against him nine months ago. Now only Webb is in a position to unseat a Republican incumbent thought to be unbeatable only weeks ago.

Nobody knows what will happen next in this wild 2006 Virginia senatorial race, but now Webb has all the momentum. And, for whatever reason, Allen himself has handed it to Webb in the time since the fateful day of the Macaca Gaffe, which Allen himself is still keeping in the newspapers by claiming to have made the word up out of thin air.

Strange days, indeed...

Update: This afternoon Allen released a statement that answers the question put to him in yesterday’s debate. Given this, his reaction to the question in the first place remains a puzzle.

“... I was raised as a Christian and my mother was raised as a Christian. And I embrace and take great pride in every aspect of my diverse heritage, including my Lumbroso family line’s Jewish heritage, which I learned about from a recent magazine article and my mother confirmed.

The Bounce

This week’s online sports column, The Bounce, looks at Richmond’s Detroit Tigers connection:

"As Major League Baseball's regular season winds down to its finish, area baseball fans may be looking to find a team to pull for. The two closest franchises to Richmond, the Baltimore Orioles (64-85) and the Washington Nationals (65-84), are going to sit out the postseason. On top of that, this year the Atlanta Braves' string of 14 consecutive division titles is coming to an end. Although Atlanta (72-77) may still have a mathematical chance of making the playoffs as a Wild Card entry, don't hold your breath.

"Instead, perhaps you should consider a breath of fresh air: the Detroit Tigers (89-60), a team with three of its best players - Sean Casey, Brandon Inge and Justin Verlander - having solid local connections, are still very much in the hunt for postseason play..."

Click here to read the rest of it at

Allen blows a fuse during debate

Debates always have the potential to make news. No matter how prepared a candidate might be, there’s always the chance for an unscripted moment to produce a surprise. Yesterday’s event in McLean proved that point. Dana Milbank’s column, "The Senator's Gentile Rebuke," in the Washington Post documents the new oddball twist in Virginia’s senatorial race:

“At a debate in Tysons Corner yesterday between Republican Allen and Democrat Webb, WUSA-TV’s Peggy Fox asked Allen, the tobacco-chewing, cowboy-boot-wearing son of a pro football coach, if his Tunisian-born mother has Jewish blood.

“‘It has been reported,’ said Fox, that ‘your grandfather Felix, whom you were given your middle name for, was Jewish. Could you please tell us whether your forebears include Jews and, if so, at which point Jewish identity might have ended?’

“Allen recoiled as if he had been struck...”

It seems nobody ever thought much about Allen’s Tunisian-born mother’s background until the Macaca Gaffe brought it into focus. Some wondered if he learned that word from her, since it is apparently used in that part of the world as a racist putdown, etc. Now who knows where this is going?

No doubt, much will be made of Allen’s angry reaction in the next few days.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Webb answered; Allen waffled

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?

In spite of his saying he wants to be the “bridge” between the Warner Committee’s position and Bush’s, Allen seems not to know what to do. So, he’s stalling. In contrast Webb is taking a clear stand. That’s leadership.

This week the torture issue will be at the top of the news and Bush is going to continue to take a beating. Webb should to continue to press Allen on this issue as hard as he can.

Now is the time for the Webb bloggers to go to work -- this gift-wrapped issue is the one that can turn this election.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Allen’s Debate Dilemma

Facing a live debate with his opponent on national television on NBC’s Meet the Press, Sen. George Allen has a new problem: The red hot potato of an issue that popped out of the oven on Thursday is sure to be lobbed his way by the news program’s moderator, Tim Russert. No doubt Russert is going to ask both the Republican incumbent and his Democratic opposite, Jim Webb, to plainly say on which side of the torture chasm they stand.

Both candidates are sure to be asked to state whether they support the position of President George Bush, or that of Virginia Sen. John Warner’s Armed Services Committee.

Reporting for the Richmond Times-Dispatch Peter Hardin draws a line of distinction between Virginia’s two senatorial hopefuls:

“Democrat Jim Webb sides philosophically with Republican Sen. John W. Warner and former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on rules for trying suspected terrorists, Webb’s Senate campaign said yesterday. Sen. George Allen, seeking a second six-year term, was not taking a public stand. His spokesman said the Virginia Republican was studying the legislation.”

Well, Allen’s 97 percent pattern of agreement with the Bush administration’s agenda would suggest he’ll stay with Bush, at least for the time being. Still, as Warner is not only an influential Republican elder senator, but he’s also very popular in Virginia, it complicates Allen’s position.

What Webb has in common with the three prominent Republican senators -- Warner, John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) -- who are challenging the president’s desired tactics for interrogations and trials of detainees, is that he too has a military background. So, should Allen stick with Bush it underlines the notion that Allen’s lack of such a background appears to have rendered him less able to understand threats to Americans in the armed services, and matters military, in general.

As long as Bush wants to frame the issue as a matter of whether America is going to be tough on the terrorists, or not, that puts Allen in a real bind. Allen doesn’t want to appear to be softening his stand on the War on Terror, but that stand may be going out of style fast. Of course, I don’t know what promises Allen may have made to Bush, which may tie his hands. Anyway, Allen has until 9 a.m. tomorrow to figure out how in hell to answer the question he knows is coming.

Meanwhile, AP reports that Bush is not in a mood to change his mind, “Bush Digs in Heels Over Detainee Bill.”

“President Bush is standing firm in his battle to get Congress to approve the White House plan for detaining, interrogating and prosecuting suspected terrorists. The Senate, though, isn't backing away from its plan either. The president's standoff with lawmakers is over legislation authorizing military tribunals and harsh interrogations of terror suspects.”

In what should come as no surprise McCain isn’t backing down either:

“‘Weakening the Geneva protections is not only unnecessary, but would set an example to other countries, with less respect for basic human rights, that they could issue their own legislative reinterpretations,’ McCain said in a statement released Friday. ‘This puts our military personnel and others directly at risk in this and future wars.’”

The timing of all this is the worst part of the dilemma for Allen. His aides would like to let this potato cool off for a couple of weeks, giving them time to study poll numbers. But Russert isn’t likely to give Allen that luxury.

If Allen waffles, if he ducks the question, Russert shouldn’t let him off easy.

Neither should Webb. The emergence of this now sharply carved issue concerning torture, justice, and the moral high ground, could be the defining moment in the 2006 campaign Jim Webb has been waiting for. Which should make Sunday’s Meet the Press (9 a.m.) must-see-TV for Virginia’s political junkies.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Media Watchdog?

Writing for Bacon’s Rebellion Conway Haskins takes on the concept of the need for a mainstream media watchdog. It is a good subject. In addition to his media savvy, in general, Haskins is a keen observer of the political blogosphere and a good writer.

Click here to read "Who's Watching the Richmond Media? Blogs to the Rescue?" Part One.

Click here to read "Who's Watching the Richmond Media? Blogs to the Rescue?" Part Two

If you aren't familiar with Haskins' writing this is a good time to change that. His blog, South of the James is always worth a visit.

Allen's Strange Family Portrait

A glance at my take on George Allen (see post below) reveals my willingness to have some fun at his expense. A visit to Wonkette’s Sept. 5 post, George Allen’s Family Portrait, shows another artist’s view of Virginia’s junior senator.

The artist, David Cochran, who received some of his training at Virginia Commonwealth University in the 1970s and lived in the Fan District for a few years, painted the four by six portrait of Allen and his family which purportedly hangs in the Allen home in Northern Virginia.
David Cochran's painting of the Allen family.
Well, I can’t say what Cochran’s politics were back then. Nor will I guess about it now. But I can say that I was startled when I saw the image of that bizarre painting on Wonkette’s site. I laughed immediately because I first thought it was a joke. Then, when I read that it was a painting Allen had bought I laughed even harder. Upon noticing that I once knew the painter ... I was flabbergasted. Wonkette called the image “creepy.”

That’s why it has taken me over a week to post this at SLANTblog. I just didn’t know what to say. Was Cochran deliberately trying to create the tackiest painting possible, or did it just happen? Was Cochran trying to pull off an elaborate prank, or what?

Well, I just can’t say. But, I can say this: I hope Cochran got paid plenty for it.

The only time George Allen ever asked me (one of his aides called) for any of my art -- a 1994 ’toon of mine -- he didn’t want to pay a nickel for it. Apparently, the then-sitting governor thought he was doing me a favor just to ask me to donate the original to hang on his wall, along with other depictions of him.

So, I said, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

And, I can say this, too: George Allen is a chump if that twisted portrait of his family is really hanging on a wall in his home, no matter what he paid for it.

Everything is in the future

Writing for the Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Michael Paul Williams asks: “What’s up with Benny?” In his piece, “With endorsement of Allen, Lambert climbs out on a limb,” Williams examines the longtime Richmond Democratic legislator’s crossing of party lines to endorse a Republican’s reelection.

Williams pulls no punches. While he outlines the unusual nature of Lambert’s move, he also points to newly-minted Democrat Jim Webb’s lack of effort -- so far -- to reach out to the traditional Democratic base, which certainly includes black voters.

“...Webb has hardly embraced -- or been embraced by -- the black voter base so crucial to his election. Invoking the name and words of former President Ronald Reagan in an advertisement, which Webb did to the consternation of Nancy Reagan, is hardly the move to energize black voters. Still, many assumed that the disaffected would fall into (party) line.”
On this point I agree with Williams. This is something Webb needs to address, pronto. Contrary to what some of Webb’s supporters might think, Allen’s Macaca Gaffe will not be enough to automatically deliver the enthusiastic support of black voters to Webb’s effort to unseat Allen. It’s even a little insulting to think that it would.

Trumpeting what was his Reagan connection in the 1980s may enhance Webb’s ability to win over some independent voters, even some disaffected Republicans. Still, without a strong election day turnout of the Democratic base in Virginia Webb is going to lose this race. You can bet the farm on that.

Allen’s camp would love to keep Webb apologizing for things he said 20 or 30 years ago, and disagreeing with flinty Nancy Reagan, of all people.


Partly because it distracts voters from the Macaca Gaffe, and mostly because it keeps Webb trapped in the past. Hey, the truth is most Democrats could care less if Mrs. Reagan is crazy enough to think she owns the rights to every image of and word from her late husband that was ever recorded.

Moreover, Webb needs to show Democrats why he is a Democrat today. While his 2002 public stance against the invasion of Iraq remains noteworthy, that’s old news, too. Webb must stop talking about the past and start talking about the brighter future he and his fellow Democrats will create if given the opportunity.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Powell: World is beginning to doubt the moral basis

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has joined with Sen. John Warner, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham to challenge President George Bush’s Twilight Zone plans to deal out rough justice to the prisoners languishing at Gitmo, men supposedly captured from various theaters of the so-called War on Terror.

AP reports:

“‘I will resist any bill that does not enable this program to go forward with legal clarity,’ Bush said at the White House.

“The president’s measure would go further than the Senate package in allowing classified evidence to be withheld from defendants in terror trials, using coerced testimony and protecting CIA and other U.S. interrogators against prosecution for using methods that may violate the Geneva Conventions.

“‘The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism,’ Powell, a retired general who is also a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in his letter.

“Powell said Bush’s bill, by redefining the kind of treatment the Geneva Conventions allow, ‘would add to those doubts. Furthermore, it would put our own troops at risk.’”

“Firing back, White House spokesman Tony Snow said Powell was ‘confused’ about the White House plan. Later, Snow said he probably shouldn’t have used that word.”

This action is going to put pressure on Virginia’s Sen. George Allen, who is in a dogfight to keep his seat in the U.S. Senate. With Allen’s close association with the Bush administration’s goals -- Mr. 97 percent -- he will be expected to fall in line with Bush and split with his colleague, Virginia’s senior senator, John Warner.

Yet, this exposes Allen to more attacks from the camp of his Democratic opponent, Jim Webb. Given his military background, Webb is sure to agree with Warner’s senate committee, which is openly concerned with protecting Americans in the armed forces from being tortured if they are captured.

It appears to me Bush is holding a losing hand on this issue, as far as action in the Senate is concerned. He probably knows this but he still needs to take this stand publicly to rally his hardcore base for the fall elections. Sometimes, the demands of propaganda can be staggering.

Thus, candidate Allen is in a real bind. What to do? Which pose to strike?

The good thing about that predicament is at least Allen’s camp has finally got something to fret over that is more pressing than creating the next new apology for the Macaca Gaffe.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Lambert gambit

Here’s what’s waiting for Jim Webb's supporters if they get identified with a Trash Benny campaign -- you will be called “racists.” Then Webb will be challenged to distance himself from your "racism."

Here’s how the stretch of a racism charge will be made: Allen’s camp will say Webb and his supporters “seem to expect” an elected black official to side only with Democrats. Then they will say that expectation is a form of racism that is peculiar to white liberals, who take black voters for granted.

If that charge is made, no doubt Webb’s camp will try to laugh it off, but some of it could stick.

Will they fall for the trap? Will they attack Benny Lambert, or just let it go? Will they ruin Jim Webb’s chance to energize a large turnout of black voters?

Can Jim Webb, the leader, muzzle his blog dogs this time?

The trap of Lambert's endorsement

So, now Sen. Benjamin Lambert has broken ranks with Virginia Democrats to endorse Republican Sen. George Allen‘s reelection.

As I recall it, 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.

The Webb camp should shrug off this endorsement of Allen for that reason and one more, which is even more important. The worst possible thing that Webb’s supporters could do is start trashing Benny Lambert. If Raising Kaine and its blogging team get suckered onto going ballistic on Lambert, calling him names and ridiculing him, that tactic will surely blow up in their faces.

Allen’s camp will grab that stuff and put it in front of black voters statewide, to drive a permanent wedge between Webb and those Democrats.

Let’s face it many black voters are not sure about Webb, as it is. Webb has a lot work to do in that area, already. If his camp gets blamed for disrespecting Lambert, simply because he hasn’t done what they want, Webb’s task of energizing that significant part of the Democratic base may become impossible.

Does the Netroots playbook allow for restraint, when it’s called for? We’ll see.

Bush deserves to be mocked

President George Bush’s speech from the White House was a new low point. For him to shamelessly use the fifth anniversary of 9/11 to deliver what nothing more than a boilerplate political speech, once again justifying the costly occupation of Iraq, was utterly galling. It reminded me of listening to President Richard Nixon lie on television, looking right into the camera’s lens, over and over again.

Yet, after using Monday night’s somber occasion to trot out more manipulative campaign propaganda, trying to hold onto control of Congress, this smug son of a president may have even outdone himself. Although I never thought I’d say it of any man or woman -- I’ve come to believe that our sitting president is worse than Richard M. Nixon was, as far as how much he has hurt America.

The damage the reckless Bush administration has already done will take years to get over/be paid off. Who knows how bad it will get before the feckless Bush leaves the White House?

Furthermore, with his neoconservative foreign policy agenda Bush is more dangerous to the world’s living creatures than Nixon ever was.

Like Nixon was, Bush has become pure poison to American values to do with fair play and honest dealings. Like Nixon, Bush has made all of us more cynical. But Bush II, The Decider, is presenting a face to the rest of the world that is hurting America abroad in ways I fear are inviting the worst sort of trouble tomorrow ... “Bring it on.”

Like Tricky Dick was for his 20 years of post-presidential life, Dubya now deserves to be mocked and reviled for the rest of his days.

Note: Updated with a bit of a rewrite at 1:30 p.m., same day.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Palpable Fear, Close to Home

"The lessons of 9/11."

We’ve heard that phrase over and over for five years. Of course, what those lessons should be has depended entirely on who was doing the talking. So, one of the lessons of 9/11 surely is that we will all be hearing about 9/11 for the rest of our lives.

For Americans, especially those who live on the East Coast, it was a day unlike any other. Like most of us I remember where I was that morning, what I was doing. Five years ago I was writing opinion pieces for on a regular basis. The first thing I wrote about 9/11 was written that same afternoon and evening. It wasn't easy to gather one's thoughts. Here is a portion of that piece:
Wednesday, September 12, 2001
Indelible Images
by F.T. Rea

Before the first hijacked airplane smacked into the World Trade Center at 8:45 a.m., EDT, Sept. 11, 2001, there were millions of vexations, large and small, on the minds of New Yorkers starting their workday. Suddenly, all those thoughts vanished in the fireball that began the series of explosions that destroyed the rosy illusion shared by many; that New York and Virginia were safe from large-scale terrorist attacks.

The collapse of Manhattan’s World Trade Center Towers, 110 stories tall, and the penetration of the Pentagon in Arlington provided us, one and all, with the stuff of nightmares.

At the same time, the inspirational stories of the heroism of professional rescuers and ordinary citizens have already provided hope for red-eyed television viewers everywhere that decency and courage will endure in this country, in spite of the heinous acts of mass murderers.

Some of the gut-wrenching images provided by television’s instant news capability will no doubt prove to be indelible. They will be remembered always, just as images associated with the stunning assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. The shock of watching the supposed assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, murdered on live TV by Jack Ruby remains palpable for this scribe to this day.

Watching that Boeing 767 bank into the second of the two WTC towers to be hit, some 18 minutes after the first crash, is certainly a picture that millions will remember forever; not unlike the bewildering explosion of the Challenger Space Shuttle on Jan. 26, 1986.

As with the Pearl Harbor sneak attack 60 years ago, life for families in New York, Virginia, and all across America has changed suddenly and forever. The lull enjoyed in this country, before this newest day of infamy, has literally gone up in smoke.

Comparisons to those three tragedies are fair, even though there are clear differences. It’s only natural that a nation rocked by the impact of such events try to get its arms around the context of what has happened...
And, here's some of what I wrote in the days immediately following 9/11, as part of the One-on-One weekly series of OpEds I was doing then, opposite Robert Holland:

September 16, 2001
Palpable Fear, Close to Home
by F.T. Rea

After being a spectator in the realm of international terrorism for decades, bloodthirsty fanatics have invaded America and brought their chilling malice close to our homes. Fear and rage are in the air. What’s next?

Following a weekend set aside to mourn the dead and gather ourselves, it’s high time to face the future with eyes wide open. Even as the pros and the volunteers continue to carry out body parts from under the mountains of rubble in lower Manhattan, dust in the air and swelling patriotism should not be allowed to blur our vision or deter our will to endure this ordeal.

Nor should justifiable anger be allowed to propel this nation into taking action that will only play into the hand of the fiendish mindset that dispatched precision teams of terrorists into this country, to insidiously corrode our way of life.

Now, more than ever, it is essential that we move in a measured way. Clearly, no matter how much Americans need to pull together at this most crucial time, we cannot permit political spin to substitute for straight talk and wise strategy.

With those thoughts in mind, I must first ask President George W. Bush to listen to the leaders in Europe and ratchet down his rhetoric. In spite of what Bush has been saying to the cheering mobs, "war" is not the best word to use at this time.

Nor is it an accurate term. The United States is at peace with the other nations of the world and this is absolutely a time for cool heads to prevail.

Watching the heartbreaking toil of the rescuers and the pain-etched faces of glassy-eyed searchers for love ones, yes, it is entirely understandable that a hard-pressed president, groping to connect with the pain of the citizenry, would want to invoke the strongest of language.

Nonetheless, this new president simply must listen to his better angels. It won’t help our cause to put the whole world on the reddest of alerts. Plus, Americans are already angry and scared enough to let their chosen leaders carry the ball.

This son of a president needs to calm the population down and demonstrate that he is up to the arduous task ahead. Leaders of our allies in Europe are already issuing statements regarding this problem of reckless language in hopes of easing off on the pressure that is building.

On top of that, war is a dog-eared word that has been abused by spin doctors in this country’s past. Remember the fizzled War on Poverty? How about the utterly failed War on Drugs?

Let’s not kid ourselves. Threatening religious fanatics by saying we are going to war with them is not going to frighten them one whit. This enemy doesn’t expect to win, or even survive. Its automatons are willing to die merely to cause suffering and wreak havoc. This enemy lives only to pay back.

With that nasty thought in mind, we should not miss this opportunity to express to the Arab world, as a whole, that America recognizes that the residual anger all Arabs feel for having been subjugated, as a people, by colonial powers in the past is legitimate. If this country’s spokesmen demonstrate that simple concession, clearly for all the world to see, it will be immensely easier too for it to win over moderates in the Middle East that are essential to this mission’s success.

What we have is a mission, or perhaps a calling. America, the world’s only super power, must marshal its forces and lead civilization in a campaign to expose terrorism for the blight on humanity that it is. We must isolate the sociopaths, masquerading as patriots and clerics, who practice terrorism.

The USA will have no trouble finding allies for this mission if it is the least bit artful. Bombing whole countries in order to punish a handful of people will only perpetuate the very scourge we aim to eliminate.

Remember, in many parts of the world terrorism has been part of daily life for decades. So, there are plenty of terrified people who will be glad to see murderers in their midst taken down.

What’s happening to Slobodon Milosovich right now is what needs to happen to Osama bin Laden, providing he is indeed the man who set all this in motion. This country should put its evidence before the United Nations and go after the international criminals behind the massacres of Sept. 11, 2001, with the enthusiastic blessing of the vast majority of the peoples of the world.

Moving with anything less than that will doom us to failure.

Once captured, assuming the accused survive that dicey process, they should be tried in a world court and given their just due. Then let’s have a party. Of course, if they refuse to be taken alive, well...

Meanwhile, dropping bombs willy-nilly on Afghanistan or Iraq won’t bring back the dead. That strategy will merely justify, and set in motion, the next terrorist attack on our soil. Then we will be trapped in the endless payback game.

This piece should in no way be interpreted as a lack of support for what President Bush has said will be the focus of his administration: wiping out terrorism. Many have counseled that this is exactly what it should have been all along. I hope this also means we will hear less about the so-called Star Wars plan.

Without a doubt, terrorism has been the biggest threat to civilization for many years...
Remembering 9/11, with five years of perspective, I am glad my daughter and her family no longer live in the suburbs of DeeCee.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Chuck Wrenn: Richmond's Rock 'n' Roll Impresario

Thinking about the upcoming High on the Hog outdoor music festival on Libby Hill, Oct. 7, brought to mind the feature on Chuck Wrenn that I penned for a local ‘zine four years ago. Here’s how that piece for FiftyPlus, which traced Wrenn’s career in show business, began:

“Twenty-two years ago, when it was generally accepted that large-scale outdoor Rock ‘n’ Roll events couldn’t be staged in Richmond, Chuck Wrenn put three fully-amplified bands, including the impeccably authentic Memphis Rockabilly Band, on a flatbed trailer in the cobblestone alley behind his back yard. It was the fourth edition of High on the Hog, Libby Hill’s live music and pork-worshiping festival.

“The 1980 event featured a serendipitous, career-defining moment for Wrenn: it began raining. Rather than lose momentum by shutting off the electricity and waiting out the downpour, host/emcee Wrenn broke out rolls of heavy-gauge transparent plastic. Soon, with the help of many happy hands, he had improvised a canopy to protect the stage and cover a good part of the yard. In effect, he wrapped the whole shebang.

“Yes, the show went on. With electric guitars wailing in defiance of the chilly rainstorm, the sense of common purpose felt by one and all was remarkable.”

Click here to read "Rock ‘n’ Roll Impresario: High on the Hog’s Chuck Wrenn."

Art: F.T. Rea (1985)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

High on the Hog 30

High on the Hog 8 (1984)
High of the Hog 30 will unfold on October 7 at its usual location, Richmond's Libby Hill Park. That’s right folks, it all started way back in 1977.

This year the annual throwdown’s impresario, Chuck Wrenn, has booked a lineup that should be quite a draw, all four acts have a rich history of previous appearances: The Bopcats will open, to be followed by the Memphis Rockabilly Band. Then the Good Humor Band will take to the stage when the party should be at its height. The Billy Price Band will close the show.
High on the Hog 11 (NRBQ in 1987)
This event wrote the book on outdoor Rock ‘n’ Roll shows in Richmond. Now the guys who started it watch their children and grandchildren do much of the work.

As always, admission is free; the party runs from noon to sunset. The food and drink sell this way: barbecue plates -- $7; golden beverages -- $3; soft drinks -- $1. Proceeds will go to the Church Hill Association and The Church Hill Crime Watch.

High on the Hog 24 (2000)

Photos: F.T. Rea

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Who still believes Bush?

In listening to President George Bush’s speech about prisoners at Guantanamo, today, I was struck with one thing, again and again -- all of what he said only made sense if the listener trusted him.

Reading about the speech the news has seemed focused on the admission of the secret prisons and Bush’s call for legislation. To me, the story ought to be -- why should we believe anything this prevaricating president says? The way he has used secrecy and propaganda, to hide what’s been going on with those suspected terrorists at Gitmo and other locations, there’s just no telling what the truth is.

The proof that what Bush told us today was true can’t be offered, as usual, because that sort of information would help the terrorists still out in the field, somewhere.

How many times have we heard that one before? So, once again, a president who has been caught time and again torturing the truth is asking that he be trusted.

Well, for what I consider solid reasons, I don’t trust President George Bush. In truth, I can’t remember trusting a president less until I get all the way back to Richard Nixon, who assured us many times he was not a crook.

No, I don’t know how much of what Bush said today was made up out of thin air. Still, in my gut I know too much of it was. That’s what happens when trust dies -- you don’t know what to believe.

So, my hope is that Congress will restore some of its dignity by forcing Bush to prove what he says is true. That, or be denied what he has asked of it in the way of legislation.
Art by F.T. Rea

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Bounce returns to

With all the rain we’ve had it seems my old sports column at has floated back up to the surface. This week’s piece is on opening day match-ups in college football, which featured Division I-A vs. Division I-AA teams.

Hardcore Duke fans might want to skip this one. Click here to read The Bounce.

Wilkinson argues against amendment in Virginia

No less than J. Harvie Wilkinson III, who served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell (1972-73) and was appointed to the Fourth Circuit bench by Ronald Reagan (1984), has weighed in on the amendment that’s on Virginia’s ballot in November, supposedly designed to ban same-sex marriages. Here’s an excerpt from the scholarly Wilkinson’s OpEd piece, “Hands Off Constitutions,” which appears in the Washington Post:

“...The Framers meant our Constitution to establish a structure of government and to provide individuals certain inalienable rights against the state. They certainly did not envision our Constitution as a place to restrict rights or enact public policies, as the Federal Marriage Amendment does.

“Ordinary legislation -- not constitutional amendments -- should express the community's view that marriage ‘shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.’ To use the Constitution for prescriptions of policy is to shackle future generations that should have the same right as ours to enact policies of their own. To use the Constitution as a forum for even our most favored views strikes a blow of uncommon harshness upon disfavored groups, in this case gay citizens who would never see this country's founding charter as their own.”

Because he’s an honest and thoughtful judge who won’t walk in lockstep with the latest neoconservative orders, will proponents of this hastily put together amendment now rush to call Judge Wilkinson a moonbat, or a liberal?

Or, will some new-style Republicans actually read Wilkinson’s words and come to realize that he is taking the classic conservative stance with the title of his opinion piece -- Hands Off Constitutions?

Wilkinson adds:

“...I do not argue that same-sex marriage is a good or desirable phenomenon, only that constitutional bans on same-sex unions carry terrible costs.”

So, the legal expert is saying that there are plenty of reasons to vote against this amendment, also known as the Marshall/Newman amendment.

Moreover, there was a time when conservatism in America stood for something finer than simply being mean-spirited and backward. The father of the conservative movement in the 1960s, Barry Goldwater, must be spinning in his grave. Isn’t it high time for true conservatives to separate themselves from today’s so-called neoconservatives, whose opportunistic agenda is looking more and more like a runaway train?

Neocons talk about protecting tradition, but they want to rewrite constitutions. They talk about law and order, but they only trust judges that are also onboard the runaway train. They talk about prudent fiscal policy, but they don't mind breaking the bank with reckless spending at home and abroad. They talk about getting the government off their backs, but they applaud unprecedented efforts by the federal government to spy on Americans in their homes.

Wilkinson is telling Virginians to reject this poorly written amendment. To him, it is not a matter of gimmicks put on the ballot, designed to help Republican candidates. He’s talking about voting no to this ballot question:

Shall Article I (the Bill of Rights) of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to state:

“That only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions.

“This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.”?

Battery Park, the home of underwater tennis

My daughter and her family moved from the Fan to Battery Park in the spring. Now they are the lucky ones, as they happen to live on high ground, above the water line. Over the weekend, as Ernesto moved through the area, I spoke with Katey a number of times on the phone. I've looked at her husband Brian’s photos of the flood.

Now it seems to me this rising of bad water is something that needs to be looked at thoroughly, including under every rock. And, I suspect it’s likely to spawn a huge controversy over who is to blame.

Still, blame it on today's City Hall, or yesterday's, like many old cities Richmond has some infrastructure problems that have been neglected for years. Now, it’s clearly time to face the music and stop only fixing the stuff that breaks. The residents of Battery Park deserve full disclosure, including what measures it would have taken to have prevented this trouble. At this point we're being told it was matter of a broken pipe of some sort that was hard to find.

The residents of Richmond need to be able to trust their government not to cover up mistakes, not to obfuscate.
Yes, the tennis courts on which Arthur Ashe learned to play tennis are under that water/cesspool being pumped out by those pipes.

Now is the time for Mayor Doug Wilder to show all Richmonders he can deliver more than a glib load of spin and blame. Perhaps now is the time for him to properly use some of the sense of righteous indignation and purpose he showed in getting a new bear for Maymont, and naming it properly.

Now may well be the right time to stop talking about building new baseball parks, or far-flung performing arts centers to be built at taxpayers' expense. In a timely manner, can Mayor Wilder deliver the truth and a realistic solution to Richmond's problem with storm water?

Photos: Brian Knox

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Allen, the first victim of YouTube politics

Sen. George Allen’s bullying demeanor, as he twice directed the word Macaca at the young man from the Jim Webb camp, a tracker who was video-taping his remarks at a campaign stop, on Aug. 11, has altered the course of Virginia politics. How much?

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. The tape made Allen look like anything but the nice, sober guy of his carefully crafted public image, as he facetiously welcomed Webb volunteer S.R. Sidarth to the real Virginia.

Our pop culture loves a gotcha moment. So, the Macaca jokes have not slowed a bit. Cable television’s Jon Stewart and Keith Olbermann have been making sport of Allen, as have many others. Now comes The Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Jeff E. Schapiro.

In Schapiro’s Sunday column, “A Punch Line: Monkey Business Troubled Others Before Allen,” he writes:

“By using the ‘m’ word, Allen also bared for an audience in Virginia and beyond a mean streak a lot of us have seen it before -- that lurks just beneath his make-believe Bubba facade. Allen, now groveling for a second term that should have been a gimme, joins a pantheon of Virginia political figures whose futures forever changed because of something silly, surprising, stupid, spiteful, or salacious.”

As Schapiro points out in his witty piece, Allen has made several passes at shrugging off his unfunny remarks, explaining his awkward remarks, even apologizing, but it hasn’t made the story go away. Instead, his apologies seem to feed it.

Update: Writing for the Washington Post, Michael D. Shear analyzes the Allen vs. Webb race in a piece that ran in Sunday’s newspaper "Macaca Moment." Shear’s overall take on the race comes off as fair. That he is giving Webb any chance is a recognition of the impact the Macaca affair has had on this contest:

“Webb has yet to advertise, having raised far less money than Allen. But there are signs that his finances are improving: a new Web site, a bigger staff and more offices. Webb consultant Steve Jarding said Allen's ‘macaca’ comment tripled the Democrat’s fundraising.

“‘Webb is now being looked at by people all over the country,’ Jarding said.

“‘This is a referendum on George Allen,’ he added. ‘Do we want the rubber stamp? Is he the nice guy that he said he was?’”

The YouTube video is the difference. This is something new and all sorts of people are fascinated with it.

The first big victim of YouTube politics is the Macaca-stained 2008 presidential hopeful, George Allen. Eventually, a YouTube moment will put another politician in its Internet spotlight. No doubt, Allen hopes that relief will come sooner than later.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Five Favorite Best Picture Oscar Winners

This Saturday’s list of five favorites will concentrate on Best Picture Academy Award-winners. The Academy started handing out the awards in 1927, and as we know it usually gives the Oscar to very popular movies, which made a lot of money for their producers. But that doesn’t mean what's accepted as popular is always mediocre, or even predictable.

My list of five illustrates the Best Picture award has sometimes gone to somewhat offbeat movies that no one would have expected to have been contenders when they were being produced. Yet, upon their release their excellence just bowled over that year's competition.

“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

Meanwhile, the art above is available on new Biograph T-shirt (in either white or black), it is available only online from F.T. Rea's Inkbites. The painting itself was done in 1974 for a poster to do with a staff art show. The lettering "Biograph" is from one of the theater's programs, No. 59, in the spring of 1982. Other designs are available, too. To see the all images on a preview page, a little bit larger than how they appear on the Inkbites' page, click here

Friday, September 01, 2006

Following Eyes

Here's the art for the first SLANT T-shirt to be available in over 15 years.

The oil painting was done in the mid-'90s, it appeared on a SLANT calendar. My goal for that piece was to figure out how to paint eyes that would follow the viewer, no matter where he stood. We've all seen those paintings in galleries/ museums, where the eyes seem to do that. It was an interesting challenge.

Click here to go to F.T. Rea's Inkbites to learn more about that T-shirt and others.

Cornwell after 1993's election

Flashing back to 1993’s election, which put George Allen in the Governor’s Mansion and put Mary Sue Terry out to pasture, here’s another tidbit on the Patricia Cornwell connection. The cartoon frame above appeared in the issue of SLANT (a little ‘zine I published then) that followed Allen’s victory.

A few days later at Happy Hour in the Texas-Wisconsin Border Cafe (1982-99) an old friend mentioned to me that Cornwell had seen the ’toon in SLANT and had gotten a big kick out of it. Cornwell was aware he knew me, because of a T-shirt I had designed for her. At the time that friend was in charge of an extensive renovation that was being done on her Windsor Farms mansion.

Anyway, a couple of days later in the Border, on my birthday, the same friend presented me with a (first edition) copy of Cornwell’s then-new novel, “Cruel and Unusual.” Sardonically, he said it was from The Princess, his name for her, which meant what it meant. A scan of what the author wrote in signing the book is below.