Thursday, August 31, 2006

All Dick, All the Time

'Toon by F.T. Rea

To see this image on a T-shirt and other images available at cafepress, as well, click on F.T. Rea's Inkbites. To get a better look at the art for the other designs than cafepress offers click here.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Jaquith looks at 1993 and wonders about 2006

In “Allen vs. Terry: History repeats itself,” Waldo Jaquith spotlights key moments in the fizzling of Mary Sue Terry’s campaign in 1993, a gubernatorial race that George Allen won in spite of being way behind in summertime polls:
“...Allen had been nominated at the Republicans’ June 4-5 convention in Richmond, fresh off of losing his House seat post-redistricting. The conservative Richmond Times Dispatch has criticized the Republican ticket as “the most conservative ticket in memory,” with UVa political scientist Larry Sabato saying it was evidence that Virginia Republicans ‘would rather be right than govern.’ Terry has $2.3M in the bank. Allen has nothing.”
Jaquith does a good job of showing how that year’s unraveling of a well-financed favorite could be providing a bit of foreshadowing for the 2006 Virginia senatorial race. Waldo’s scenario shows how it all really came undone for Terry in August, a month that is frequently seen as a timeout from politics by the lazy or naive. What his look at 1993 neglects is the quirky role writer Patricia Cornwell played in torpedoing Terry’s political career.

In early 1993 it was widely rumored that Cornwell -- who lived in Richmond then -- and Attorney General Terry had a special sort of friendship. Cornwell, looking nearly punk in her black leather, made a few rather news-making appearances, partying hardy and extolling the merits of her friend.

Then, for whatever reason, the suddenly popular crime novelist suddenly turned against Terry over that summer. Not only did Cornwell make it quite public that she and Terry were no longer on the same page, in the fall Cornwell actually produced TV ads telling all to vote for Allen. She faced the camera and said it was her own money she was spending to defeat her former Democratic friend. Cornwell had turned Republican, in the worst way.

How much that flight of strange ads contributed to Terry’s downfall can be debated. But there is no debating that it had a noticeable effect on gossip at the time. Now, given Waldo’s linking of 1993 to 2006, where’s this year’s Cornwell?

Will a well-known Republican -- waiting in the wings to make a move -- turn on George Allen in the next month, or so? That would be almost eerie, if it happened. Once momentum is lost, as Allen knows from 1993, sometimes it’s impossible to get it back. If Allen‘s numbers continue to sink, in spite of his fundraising advantage, will Allen’s fair-weather friends start to push away from him?

Art: by F.T. Rea (1994, "Campaign Inkbites")

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Webb: 'We have squandered our wealth on misadventure'

In Virginia Beach Democratic senatorial candidate Jim Webb spoke about the two most glaring failures of Republican leadership over the last six years. He began with Hurricane Katrina, which tore into the Gulf Coast a year ago, today.

“If there is one single verdict that can be rendered on the six years of George Bush, Dick Cheney and George Allen, it is that they have been years of waste,” said Webb. “When tragedy struck in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Alabama, the Bush-Cheney Administration used it as another opportunity to enrich its friends and gut protections for working Americans. We have squandered our wealth on misadventure and neglected to invest in our future as a nation. And Senator Allen has been part of the problem, not the solution.”

Then Webb drove another nail into Allen’s political coffin by tying that domestic fiasco to the preemptive war/utter debacle in Iraq, by pointing at the obviously inept planning, incompetent execution and bumbling follow up by the Bush administration, once again, as facilitated by the Republican-led Congress.

“Failure of planning. Failure of operational leadership. Failure to follow up. Sound familiar?” said Webb. “Of course it does. Because this is exactly the same pattern that we see from this Administration in Iraq and it reflects a failure of overall approach that needs to be remedied. A remedy that is an independent voice in the U.S. Senate willing to fight for change.”

This is exactly what I hope Jim Webb will keep saying, every chance he gets. Tying those two colossal failures together is not only smart strategy, because of Allen’s 97 percent backing of Bush, it’s the unvarnished truth. Spin as he might, there isn’t much Allen can say to keep those two signature debacles from sticking to him, not unlike the Macaca story has.

Note: This story was culled from the Webb camp’s web site. Art by F.T. Rea

Monday, August 28, 2006

Cowboys owner Jones' spin: It's all good

What matters? The Redskins are 0-3 in the preseason, or Terrell Owens is doing his best to drive the Dallas Cowboys management crazy? I'm not worried about Coach Joe Gibbs' Washington team ... see you in September. But, as a Redskins fan, I am enjoying all of what T.O. is doing to drive Dallas head coach Bill Parcells up the wall.

"'I think everybody has overslept, you know, once or twice in their life,' Owens said Monday, more amused than angry that a fuss is being made over something that's happened to him before, though not since he's joined the Cowboys. 'It's not a big deal.'

"[Team owner] Jerry Jones agrees, pointing out that some of the most upstanding citizens in team history were fined for similar transgressions. He also insisted it's a mistake to read more into Owens' tardiness, the fine and his lingering hamstring issue simply because of T.O.'s past.

"'From my standpoint, it's all good,' Jones said."

D.C. United coming to town

The USL's recently crowned Second Division Champion Richmond Kickers will face D.C. United, of Major League Soccer, in exhibition match on Wed., Aug. 30, at 7 p.m. on the Kickers home field, the University of Richmond Stadium.

“It is always an honor to host D.C. United, the most storied club in U.S. history,” said Leigh Cowlishaw, the Kickers head coach. “It is an exciting occasion for our team, fans and community, and this will be a great finale to our season.”

General admission tickets are $15. And, yes, United's phenom Freddy Adu will be there.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Five Favorite Cult Movies

Cult movies is a fun category. It allows for kitsch to be cool. Bad can be good if its offbeat enough, but not too much.

For my cult films list of five they have to have been around for a while, to have earned cult status. So, there's no such thing as an instant cult movie. Something all cult films do have in common is that long after their original first run playdates have come and gone they have a loyal following. To me “cult” also implies an alternative feel to the film, many times they were made independently and typically focus on people and situations out on the periphery of reality, or beyond.

This list, as have all of them in this series of five faves postings on weekends, is limited to feature-length pictures. So, two half-hour films I love -- “La Jetée (1962) and “Un Chien Andalou” (1929) -- have to wait for another day’s list.

In another age any of the five favorites on my list below would have made good Midnight Show material at a repertory cinema near a university. Here are my five favorite cult movies:

“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

If the reader wonders why “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” isn’t on my list ... well, maybe I just saw it too many times in my theater manager days at the Biograph. In truth, after a couple of years of that goldmine of a Midnight Show, it wasn’t all that popular with the staff. The rice, and the toast, and the hot dogs ... it got old.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Richmond wins soccer title: Kickers 2, Eagles 1

Playing at the University of Richmond Stadium, the home-standing Richmond Kickers won the USL Second Division’s championship tonight. The United Soccer League web site has more on the story:

“The Richmond Kickers won their third championship in team history, claiming the USL Second Division title 11 years after claiming the double of the league and U.S. Open Cup titles in 1995 with a 2-1 win over Charlotte.”

Five favorite Rock ‘n’ Roll concert movies

When considering music films, for a best-of-the-genre list, there are so many different kinds of musicals and movies about music that the category begs to be narrowed.

For this list of five favorites, I’m looking only at Rock ‘n’ Roll movies, and then only those which present the music as concert footage -- they show the musicians, performing as themselves, on stage for a live audience. They are all documentaries of a certain stripe, even though in some cases the concerts may have been set up largely for the purpose of making the film.

So, here are my 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

Friday, August 25, 2006

Perhaps the Worst Decider, Ever?

The Worst Decider in History?

(Read “
The Worst President in History?” in Rolling Stone by Sean Wilentz)

'toon by F.T. Rea

Unbridled Incompetence

The Republican Party, with Karl Rove as its chief strategist, has been undeniably good at one thing -- winning elections. At the same time the Bush administration, bolstered by a GOP majority in both houses of Congress, has been remarkably bad at another thing -- governing.

Consequently, the Democrats have been handed an issue in this midterm election year that is as legit as it gets -- the people running the government don’t know what they’re doing.

Unlike so many elections of the last 50 years, this issue has little to do with ideology. Unlike many elections of the last 25 years, this issue is not really part of the cultural battle to limit access to abortion, or to restore old time religion -- meaning Christianity -- to its once dominant position in public life. The issue the Bush White House and its great facilitator -- the Republican controlled U.S. Congress -- has handed to the Democrats is “incompetence.”

The Bush administration’s only notable successes have been to use 9/11 fear to accumulate more power, and to funnel billions of tax dollars from the middle class to its corporate friends. The list of sweetheart deals is way too long for this space, but a glance at its two most visible failures -- its launching and management of the war in Iraq, and its reaction to the Hurricane Katrina disaster -- underlines the funneling point.

While Iraq spins more out of control, toward an all-out civil war, every day, Halliburton is doing fine. While much of the effort to rebuild New Orleans remains stuck in the mud, Bechtel is doing fine.

It says here that the Democrats don’t need to come up with their own plan to get out of Iraq, and then all agree to it, unanimously. That’s what Karl Rove and a bunch of nervous Republicans would like them to believe, because it changes the subject.

The Democrats need only to press Republican candidates all over the country on one point -- if you stand with the glaring ineptitude of the Bush White House during the campaign, you will fall on election day.

That is the tool that Jim Webb can use to pound the aw-shucks out of the incumbent, George Allen, in his effort to unseat the senator who has stood behind Bush’s agenda 97 percent of the time. Since Allen’s momentum has been in reverse gear for the two weeks following his Macaca Gaffe, it's going to be easier now to portray Allen as a dim bulb who can't think for himself.

Furthermore, Webb and the rest of the Democratic candidates this year need to promise that once they get in office they will immediately move to identify and punish the worst rascals in and around the Bush administration.

What the Republican lobbyists and bureaucrats, who have been robbing us blind fear the most in 2006, is that the GOP will lose control of Congress. They tremble at the thought of their mountains of malfeasance being investigated by reform-minded committees chaired by Democrats in 2007.

The Bush administration wouldn’t listen to it own generals, active and retired -- plus other military experts, such as Jim Webb -- who tried to counsel against the invasion of Iraq. The Bush administration appointed loyal cronies to run important government agencies, such as FEMA, rather than experienced experts. The results of that particular blunder remain obvious on the Gulf Coast.

As long as the Republicans control Congress, it’s also obvious there will be no reining in the Bush White House. Its unbridled incompetence is the Democrats’ winning issue in 2006.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Monkeys on my back

It has been widely reported that yesterday Sen. George Allen apologized over the telephone to S.R. Sidarth, the Jim Webb volunteer tracker who videotaped the senator, on Aug. 11, calling him “Macaca,” and welcoming him to Virginia, etc.The Washington Post's editorial page apparently doesn’t think much of George Allen’s most recent apology:

“...The senator’s gesture was apt, but it hardly seemed sincere. Even as he apologized, his campaign continued its two-faced strategy of simultaneously scoffing at the entire incident as what Dick Wadhams, Mr. Allen's campaign manager, has said is a contrivance. To Mr. Wadhams, politics means never having to say you’re sorry.

“Mr. Wadhams, an itinerant political hit man known for his nasty attacks on opponents, told Republican leaders in a memo sent over the weekend that the Webb campaign and the media had ganged up ‘to create national news over something that did not warrant coverage in the first place.’”

It does seem the Allen camp has struggled way too long, talking all the while out of both sides of its mouth, to put this episode aside. Yet, "Macaca" remains sticking to Allen like flypaper.

As a media expert, 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.

Or, perhaps, the Republican overall template for strategy doesn’t allow for a 2006 candidate to simply admit he’s wrong about anything. We’ve seen that bull-headed tactic from President George Bush, now we may be seeing the same rigid pose with Allen, the wannabe Bush.

It's still August and the once thought to be unbeatable Allen campaign is busy eating itself alive. This is truly amazing.
‘toon by F.T. Rea; © 2006

All Dick, all the time

On Mar. 24, 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney charged: “This is a man of great evil ... [Saddam Hussein] is actively pursuing nuclear weapons at this time.”

On Mar. 14, 2003, Cheney asserted: “We know that [Saddam Hussein] has a long-standing relationship with various terrorist groups, including the al-Qaeda organization.”

On Mar. 16, 2003, Cheney boasted: “My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.”

Four days later the war in Iraq began. Since then 2,615 U.S. troops have died there; 19,609 have been wounded. In addition, about 100 Iraqis are being killed each day, one way or another.

On Jan. 22, 2004, Cheney claimed: “I think there’s overwhelming evidence that there was a connection between al-Qaeda and the Iraqi government.”

On Oct. 5, 2004, Cheney said: “I have not suggested there’s a connection between Iraq and 9/11.”

On June 20, 2005, Cheney predicted: “We may well have some kind of presence [in Iraq] over a period of time ... I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.”

On June 19, 2006, Cheney shrugged: “I don’t think anybody anticipated the level of violence that we’ve encountered.”
Art: F.T. Rea

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The trial is over, remember Stella well

The trial is over. The murderer has been sentenced to die for killing the children, Stella and Ruby Harvey. While others applaud the just sentence and find in it triumph, or find an opportunity to make some political point, I’ll pass on both accounts.

Today, I’m glad the ordeal of the trial is behind us. While some seem fascinated with the depravity of the wicked culprit’s deeds, I’ll not write his name in this space; I don’t use his name in conversation.

Today, I’m glad the evidence from the trial will now be packed up and no one who loved the lost Harvey family will ever have to look at any of it again. Closure? I’ll pass on using that word to define the moment, too. It’s a word I find to be utterly useless in a situation such as this. Furthermore, I won’t let the media, or anyone who thinks they know best, tell me how to view the crime, or its aftermath.

Today, what I’ll do as best I can is move on.

In moving on I will always see the Harveys as they were at their best, without trying to conjure up how they looked in those last terrible minutes. The only thought I have on that horrific scene is this -- I’ve chosen to believe the four Harveys remained brave and felt the vibe of one another’s love to the very end.

Instead on dwelling on the evil that swept through the Harveys’ Woodland Heights home on Jan. 1st, and forever wondering why, I’m going to remember the butterflies that Stella Harvey’s classmates at William F. Fox School released at the dedication ceremony for the Harvey Family Memorial Garden.

Below is another look at SLANTblog's post for that day, a beautiful day to remember, June 15th:
A soccer ball rolled toward the fence ... a boy running away from it, toward the school building ... it was almost 2 p.m. The running boy was being called to join his classmates. The students, faculty and the school’s can-do PTA were all assembling on the front steps. At William F. Fox Elementary School a garden graced with sculpture created by the community mentioned above was dedicated. The songs sung by the children were poignant. At the end butterflies were released into the perfect sunlit sky; Painted Lady butterflies according to rising second-grader Sam Knox.The children were fine. Those adults who wept stayed in the shadows, if they could, during the brave celebration. Most of the grownups were fine, too, familiar faces smiling. The Harvey Family Memorial Garden was dedicated. If the reader doesn't know why this all took place, to read more about the Harvey family and why the ceremony, click here.
Photo: SLANT

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Death Sentence; updated

As reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s trial blog:

“[The prosecutor, Learned] Barry’s last statement was to ask the jury to give [defendant No. 1] the death penalty. ‘...And for God’s sake, you give him death for killing those two children!’”

This afternoon that panel demanded that [defendant No. 1] be put to death for the murders of the Harvey children, Stella and Ruby. For the other murder charges the jury only called for life sentences. So, the jury did underline the difference that Barry asked of it, for whatever that’s worth. Now, we hope to hear and read much less about defendant No. 1.

The trial for defendant No. 2 next month should make less news. Once done with that, another page will turn. We, as a community, will move on, as best we can. We accept the evil that took the Harveys was not a new thing in the world; it had nothing to do with them. While the verdict and sentence were pure justice, the execution of the murderers won’t mean that it won’t happen again, somewhere.

Not here, we pray.

For background from SLANTblog on this tragic disaster, click here. To go to the RT-D's archive for all stories related to this case and the Harvey family click here.

To find out about how to contribute to the Bryan and Kathryn Harvey Family Memorial Endowment fund click here.

Note: This post was updated at 12:30 p.m. on 8/23/06.

Broad Street Station

The postcard above is from VCU’s Rarely Seen Richmond Collection, which includes over 600 scans of postcards, mostly from the 1900-30 era.

The first train pulled out of Broad Street Station at 1:07 p.m. on January 6, 1919. Designed by John Russell Pope, what was originally known as New Union Station was constructed on the site of what had been the Hermitage Country Club. A partnership of the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad and the Atlantic Coastline built the station to satisfy the growing city’s needs.

Directly across the street the William Byrd Hotel, at 2501 West Broad Street, opened in 1925. The twelve story hotel catered to travelers heading north and south. At the other end of the block the Capitol Theater opened for business a couple of years later. It was the first movie theater in Richmond to be equipped for sound.

Boasting a first class train station and the neighboring new businesses, the area soon became a cosmopolitan and fashionable part of town. After all, residents of the Fan District then lived within easy walking distance of direct access to the entire East Coast. During the station’s peak use, the years of World War II, an average of 57 trains passed through Broad Street Station on a daily basis.

During the ensuing decades rapid outward growth of the city combined with the withering of America’s passenger rail system to change the character of the neighborhood. In 1975 Broad Street Station was no longer the hub of metropolitan life it had been; the last passenger train left the station at 4:58 a.m., on November 15 of that year.

In 1977 the distinctive building’s second life as the Science Museum began.

The William Byrd’s barber shop open in 1927. Legendary barber Willie Carlton began looking out of the barber shop’s windows at Davis Avenue in 1948. He bought the business in the 1950s. Carlton still works at that same barber shop, when he’s not playing golf. He usually comes in on Fridays and Saturdays.

Recalling that for many years automobiles parked on the 800 block of Davis at a 45 degree angle facing the barber shop, Carlton chuckled as he described a visit by singer/songwriter Hank Williams, who was asleep in a convertible when it was time to open the barber shop.

“Well, he was taking a little nap, out there in his Cadillac,” Carlton chucked.

Apparently, after the hard-living country music great finished sleeping off his road weariness, he got out of his snazzy ride and came inside for his haircut. Carlton says the price of a haircut in those days was 60 cents. Lunch in the hotel’s busy dining room cost about the same.

This post is the first of what will be a series on the history of my neighborhood, Richmond's Fan District.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Jury still deliberating over murderer's sentence

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch's trial blog, after six hours of deliberation the jury of five men and seven women packed it up for today at 7:30 p.m., with no decision having been reached. Having already been found guilty by this same jury of murdering the entire Harvey family, with the barbaric delight of an utter fiend, [defendant No. 1] must now wait through another night to know his fate -- either execution or life in prison.

For background on this still hard to grasp story, which began on Jan. 1, 2006, click here.

To find out about how to contribute to the Bryan and Kathryn Harvey Family Memorial Endowment fund click here.

Allen's curious spell of self-destructiveness

Sen. George Allen just proved how much can change in politics in just one week. The infamous Macaca Gaffe of Aug. 11 seized up his campaign’s jolly momentum, which had been steadily gaining over the summer. Then the lame series of changing excuses the senator and his camp tossed out began what has been his decline in momentum ever since.

Now I’m waiting for the next new excuse. Like, perhaps we’ll hear that Allen had a bad reaction to some medication, which had him hallucinating. So the senator mistook the video camera toting tracker -- S.R. Sidarth -- for a terrorist, which would mean Allen assumed that insulting the man was his patriotic duty.

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.

Whether Allen is a total phony, or not, won’t matter much to his rightwing hardcore base. His 97 percent support for President George Bush’s policies is more than enough for that crowd.

But to this commonwealth’s independents, as well as the moderate wing of the Virginia GOP, authenticity, good manners and common sense may matter more than Allen would like, in a post-Macaca world. Until this year, Allen has always enjoyed the support of moderate Virginia Republicans, in spite of how far to the right of them he drifted.

Now I have to doubt the courtly Sen. John Warner is all that happy with the abusive George Allen who starred in that video. The utter stupidity of Allen’s ill-chosen words and swaggering demeanor in that candid video footage -- together with the fact he knew was being recorded -- almost suggests Allen suffered a curious spell of reckless self-destructiveness.

With 11 more weeks to go in Allen’s contest with Jim Webb to represent all Virginians in the U.S. Senate for the next six years, the Macaca Gaffe has blown apart the lock Allen seemed to have on reelection. Now the doorway is open to even more change.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Movies about making movies

There have been lots of movies made about making movies. Inside looks, so to speak, at the process of producing feature films and the people who work in the industry. Continuing with my series of posts on favorite movies lists, here’s a good category for film buffs to argue about -- the best movies about what goes on behind the camera. Here are my five favorites, in alphabetical order:

“8½” (1963): Directed by Federico Fellini; Cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimée
“Day for Night” (1973): Directed by François Truffaut; Cast: Jacqueline Bisset, Valentina Cortese, François Truffaut
“The Day of the Locust” (1975): John Schlesinger; Cast: Donald Sutherland, Karen Black, William Atherton
“The Player” (1992): Directed by Robert Altman; Cast Tim Robbins, Greta Scacchi, Fred Ward
“Sunst Boulevard” (1950): Directed by Billy Wilder; Cast: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Favorite Movies with Crazy Protagonists

For this list of five favorite films, the common denominator is madness.

In each of the five on the list below, the main character is nutty. In each that character’s craziness is what drives the story. To narrow the field, I’ve limited it to movies that are essentially about characters who are steadily getting more detached from the supposedly sane reality around them. Since it's hard to find the sane world in the midst of a war, movies set in war are not included on this list of five, which is presented in alphabetical order.

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

Friday, August 18, 2006

Allen's gift to Webb; use it well

This will be a relatively short post, rather than another diatribe. A recent post by Vivian J. Paige has driven me to make one more attempt at trying to be as helpful as I can to some fellow bloggers with whom I agree with about who ought to be Virginia’s next senator -- Jim Webb.

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. Since it’s difficult to understand how Allen could have made such a blunder if he was sober, it’s the suggestion he was anything but sober.

Hey, the mainstream media are already all over the racial angle, so they hardly need more goosing on this aspect of Allen’s colossal blunder at Breaks from the bloggers most closely associated with Jim Webb’s campaign. The mainstream media need fresh material to keep the story at the top of the news.

So, I say -- make ‘em laugh. Accordingly, I’ve tried to set an example. Now I’m asking again, politely, without citing anyone in particular, do Webb’s chances a favor and lay off the use of extreme language that makes some people/voters you should care about uncomfortable to read.

Allen has given Webb a gift; use it well.

Now, what to do with the murderer?

Today's Richmond Times-Dispatch covers the trial of the man who yesterday was found guilty of murdering the Harvey family in their home on Jan. 1, "Life or death for [Defendant No. 1] ?" written by Paige Akin Mudd.

“‘And now,’ Barry [the prosecutor] told the jurors, ‘you know why we want the death penalty.’

“The defense didn’t present any evidence at the end of yesterday’s guilt phase. [Defense counsel] Everhart said later, ‘It’s the verdict we expected.’

“Now, he and co-counsel Ted Bruns are hoping that evidence of [Defendant No. 1’s] alleged childhood abuse and substance abuse will convince the jury that his life should be spared. For example, [Defendant No. 1] told Richmond police he was on the drug PCP when he killed the Harveys.

“‘It's not an excuse, it's not a justification, it’s a fact,’ Bruns said, adding, ‘[Defendant No. 1] has led a tragic, violent life. [Defendant No. 1] will die in prison. The only thing to be determined at this point is how and when.’”

Click here to read Mark Holmberg’s column, “If humanity is gone, can life be taken?

To follow today’s reports with frequent updates go to the RT-D’s trial blog. But be warned that some of the descriptions of the victims’ ordeal is likely to be quite graphic. A condensed and toned down version of the reportage will continue to be presented in this space.


In the Advocate, based in Baton Rouge, music critic John Wirt (formerly with the Richmond Times-Dispatch) writes of the disaster that hit Richmond on Jan 1, 2006 -- the murders of the four members of the Harvey family in their home. Click here to read, “Deaths of musician and family left Richmond, Va., in shock.”

Carpenter Center legal question

This heads-up came in from Don Harrison at Save Richmond, via Ptaylor at Richmond City Watch:

'It appears that the City of the Future appropriation for the Carpenter Center does not comply with the Richmond City Charter. The Ordinance 2006-81-122 adopting the budget correctly references section 6.19 of the Charter. The standards for the preparation of the budget are set in section 6.03 of the Charter.

'Sec. 6.03. Preparation

It shall be the duty of the head of each department, the judges of the municipal courts, each board or commission, including the school board, and each other office or agency supported in whole or in part by the city, including the attorney for the commonwealth, to provide at such time as the Mayor prescribe, estimates of revenue and expenditure for that department, court, board, commission, office or agency to supply all of the information which the mayor may require to be submitted thereon.'"

Note: Ever the detective, Harrison pulls it together with this:

"The Carpenter Center is wholly owned by VaPAF. VaPAF is not a city department. VaPAF is not a court. VaPAF is not a board, commission, office, or agency. There is no provision for private organizations not on the above list to participate.

"Which of the above organizational entities is legally authorized to act on behalf of VaPAF to submit revenue/expenditure data to enable the transfer of city capital budget funds to a private entity?

"Just asking."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Jury finds defendant guilty in murder trial

Verdict: Guilty!

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch blog the defendant put on no defense today. Thus, it must be assumed the only efforts the defense will make in its own behalf will be made during the penalty phase of the trial -- hoping to avoid a death sentence.

In his summation Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael N. Herring used pictures on a plasma screen to document the most horrific aspects of the crime scene, and he said, in part:

“'[The defendant] showed the Harveys no quarter, and we showed no quarter when we charged him,' Herring told the jury as he outlined the five capital murder charges against [defendant No.1] stemming from the New Year’s Day slayings of Bryan, Kathryn, Stella and Ruby Harvey..."

“The gruesome photos caused several jurors to well with tears. The pictures also appeared on a laptop that faced the prosecution table and could be viewed by members of the Harvey family. At the sight of the photos, some family members dissolved into tears.”

Update from RT-D blog:

"[Defendant No. 1] is guilty on all five counts of capital murder in the deaths of the Harvey family. The jury of seven women and five men returned the verdict about 1:45 p.m., after deliberating for about a half hour. The trial now begins its sentencing phase. After testimony from prosecution and defense witnesses, jurors will decide whether to recommend that [defendant No.1] receive the death penalty or life in prison."

For background on this ongoing story about the murders of the Harvey family, and this trial click here.

Judge orders wiretaps to stop

Here’s some breaking news that must already be giving President George Bush a fit. According to Reuters, “Judge orders halt to NSA wiretap program.”

“A federal judge in Detroit on Thursday ordered the Bush administration to halt the National Security Agency's program of domestic eavesdropping, saying it violated the U.S. Constitution.”

Here's an issue for the senatorial candidates this season: What about the wiretaps? Should Bush be able to do anything he says is a part of the War on Terror, regardless of what courts rule? Does the War on Terror trump the Constitution?

Following this landmark ruling, I'd very much like to hear both Jim Webb and George Allen speak to this issue.

And, there's this: How long will it take right-wingers who say they love the Constitution, law and order, etc., to scream about this judge in Detroit being an "activist judge" with a lefty agenda. That knee-jerk crowd of hawks and social cons seems to believe that only judges which agree with them, down the line, are honest enough to rule on the merits of the case. Think about it -- what the hell does that say about their respect for the American system of three branches of government?

Note: This post updated at 2:30 p.m. same day; the last graph was added.

Fairly unbalanced spin on Macaca gaffe

The Macaca story made its way onto the editorial page of the Richmond Times-Dispatch this morning. There’s a semi-clever Gary Brookins cartoon depicting Sen. George Allen as having a cowboy boot in his mouth, and there’s a piece called “The ’Macaca’ Gaffe.”

To its credit the editorial chides Allen for his remarks (below), which it termed “unworthy of a senator.” According to the editorial Allen said:

"‘This fellow over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or whatever his name is. He’s with my opponent. He’s following us around everywhere. And it’s just great. We’re going to places all over Virginia, and he’s having it on film and it's great to have you here and you show it to your opponent because’s [sic] he’s probably never been there and probably will never come. Let’s give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.’"

The editorial continued:

“Sidarth comes from Fairfax and attends the University of Virginia. ‘Macaca’ may have fallen on uncomprehending ears, but few considered it a compliment. It is in fact a pejorative and unworthy of a senator. If the ‘welcome to America’ applied to Sidarth, then it rated as an insult as well. As usually happens in these exercises, the Allen campaign’s excuses dug the Republican deeper into the hole...”

Then the editorial went into damage control mode; it even managed to shoehorn terrorists into the whirl:

“The news went national. The Website for The New York Times reports the story ranked among yesterday's most frequently e-mailed items. The whole thing threatens to become a feeding frenzy that ultimately makes everyone look ridiculous. The real world pays scant heed to these interruptions: For instance, terrorists have not used the occasion to declare a timeout.

That was followed by an off-the-wall apples-and-oranges attempt to neutralize the gaffe.

“Webb made a similar stumble during the Democratic primary when his campaign published a silly cartoon that depicted his Jewish opponent in imagery traditionally termed anti-Semitic. The general-election candidates now stand even in the dumb-moves sweepstakes...”

The cartoon to which the editorial refers was not drawn by Jim Webb‘s hand. It was created by a supporter. It was Allen himself who said, “Macaca.” There’s a huge difference.

On top of that the cartoon, actually a comic strip on a flier, was no more “traditionally” anti-Semitic than any other caricature of Harris Miller, Joe Lieberman, or any cartoon of a Jewish politician. Cartoons are what they are. So, the aforementioned Brookins ‘toon should not be seen as a slam on Allen’s religion (Presbyterian), either. Moreover, if one of Allen’s supporters had said “Macaca,” instead of him, it would not be news in the New York Times.

The only reason to compare that comic strip, which was mostly about Miller's career as a lobbyist/outsourcing advocate, and the already infamous “Macaca” gaffe is to play team ball. And, this time SLANTblog is throwing a penalty flag at the RT-D’s con to cover its candidate’s asinine attempt to get a cheap laugh at a campaign rally.

Perhaps the writer of the editorial would do better to ask himself how George Allen could get so loose and stupid in his lowbrow attempt at humor that he would say such a thing at a camera man rolling tape.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Defendant admits murdering Harvey family

Day Three of the murder trail for defendant No. 1, who stands charged with murdering the Harvey family in their home on Jan. 1st, produced some spectacular admissions and key evidence.

To read about it now, go to the Richmond Times-Dispatch coverage (this link has been updated since the original post), which includes what it is calling a blog.

Note: SLANTblog’s readers should know that some of the details presented in court today are more than a little disturbing. So, if you’d rather not have the pictures of the cheerful Harveys -- parents and two daughters -- in their final minutes in your head, don’t click on the RT-D link above, skip it. Also be warned that the stories in the morning newspaper are going to have the same material in them. You also may want to think about how you want your kids to find this stuff out, too.

Thus, for readers who’d like to know the gist of what happened today in court, without having to read the gory full account, here is SLANTblog’s condensed G-rated version of today’s most important revelations:
  • DNA from Harvey family members was found on the murder weapons discovered in their home and on defendant No. 1’s boots when he was caught in Philadelphia.
  • A written statement from defendant No. 1 was read aloud. In it he said the Harvey's house was chosen randomly, chiefly because the front door was open. He admitted to doing the bloody deeds while his partner-in-crime searched the house for things to steal; he admitted to taking Bryan Harvey’s wedding ring.
Note: SLANTblog will continue to post both its toned down gist of the news and links to the trial coverage. But I still will not write the names of the two defendants, who have been charged with the murders. In this space they will be called defendant No. 1, or defendant No. 2, as I want no part of making their names well-known.

For plenty of background on this story click here.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How to make the Allen gaffe grow legs

This post is aimed at supporters of Jim Webb's run for the U.S. Senate, his blogging team and the Webb camp itself.

The blogosphere is humming; we're all doing the new Macaca dance. The lame denials from the Allen defenders have been a real hoot. Still, while it’s fun to play with a new toy, the righteous indignation part of the “Macaca” story shouldn’t be the main thrust from here on. It’s been done. The Richmond Times-Dispatch published a story about it today. Allen has issued a rather “soft-toothed” apology. The Washington Post has covered it.

Now the mainstream media will need new developments to do much more on it. The charge has been made and denied. So, what’s next?

Should the racism charge stemming from the Macaca/Mohawk gaffe be repeated, jackhammer-like with purple passion until November 7th? Should blogging supporters of Webb continue to demand a better apology, no matter what apologies have been, or will be, made?

My answer for both questions is “no.” After another day or two of racism charges and denials, most people will be tired of this story, should there be no new material. So, most the of benefit the Webb campaign can get from those tactics has already been derived.

Sure, there is a great temptation to continue to milk the story, anyway, after all, this mid-August gaffe has -- for the time being -- halted what has seemed to have a been a slow withering of the Webb momentum since his primary win on June 13th. So, why in hell not hammer away on the racist charge until something better comes along?
Republican senatorial candidate Ollie North and then-Gov. George Allen at the 1994 Republican convention.
('toon by F.T. Rea, originally published in STYLE Weekly)

The answer is that “something better” can be created, instead of waiting for it to come along. Plus, who has time to wait?

What you can do is to go all-out making fun of George Allen’s gaffes and goofs. You can make wise cracks about his 97% dittohead voting record and his penchant for gaffes that are so funny people outside of your own clique of fellow Webb supporters will laugh, too.

Also, plenty of other people -- outside of your camp -- are bound to continue to pick at the wound to Allen’s reputation from the racism angle, apart from what you do. It's sure to happen. So, you don't need to do much more of that, unless preaching to the choir is all you want to do. Sorry, the bloggers who are saying this episode has surely scuttled Allen’s presidential hopes are exaggerating. I wish they were right.

Face it: the “Felix” thing was too silly to really catch on. While it hasn’t made Webb’s camp/bloggers look clever, it was coming from the right spirit. It just wasn’t funny.

Hey, we’ve all tried to be funny at times, when it didn’t work. The thing to do is move on to the next joke. Don’t keep repeating the one that bombed.

If some of the new jokes, blurbs, ‘toons and take-offs on this Macaca gaffe are genuinely funny, they could take on a life of their own. The effect would then be magnified. That should plant another good Allen-bashing story in the newspapers -- which like to run funny stories, because their readers like to read them.

My point here is that the aspect of the gaffe that is most useful, from here on, will be the stupidity of his making such a crack -- while he was looking into the lens of a video camera. Dig it.

Allen thought he was being cute; it was a funny-sounding word; he was working the room. Not unlike when he was working the room in 1994, at the Republican convention in Richmond, when he made his infamous “soft-teeth and whiny throats” comment from the podium (see 'toon above). Sure the Republican-only crowd laughed then. But the bigger joke was on Allen, who has been dogged by that gaffe ever since because the press was there, too.

The racist angle of the most recent gaffe is not going to outrage many independents or moderate Republicans. I’d rather see the Webb campaign try to sell them the notion that Allen is an anti-intellectual faux cowboy, who can’t think for himself, because he’s as dumb as a bag of hammers.

Make fun of the gaffe as another sign of what happens when Allen, the party animal, gets away from his handlers and tries to ad-lib. Uh, oh -- more soft teeth. Furthermore, Allen is perhaps the dumbest senator of the 100, and an embarrassment to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

By the way, this technique was used quite well on a one-term Virginia Republican senator, William Scott in the mid-1970s. Some young writers in Richmond -- led by Harry Stein -- who were working for the rather lefty Richmond Mercury, managed to get the manufactured story that Scott was the dumbest person in either house of congress planted in a national news magazine.

It was more a stunt than news, but boy did it work. However, the biggest reason the stunt worked was that it had a ring of truth to it. For instance, during a Pentagon briefing in which army officials began telling him about missile silos, Scott is widely reported to have said, “Wait a minute! I’m not interested in agriculture. I want the military stuff.”

Note: This post was updated, typos and minor copy-editing at 8 p.m. on the same day.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Allen: Macarena, I meant to say...

Holy mack, I say, ho-ly mackerel! Heh, heh. Macarena, I meant to say -- that dance, no offense meant. Would you believe macaroni? Wasn’t that his name? OK, maybe macaroon?

Art: F.T. Rea

Harvey grants announced; murder trial to start today

As reported in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, in "Grants honor Harveys" by Will Jones, the first grants to honor the memory of the slain Harvey family have been announced:

“One grant will help fund arts programs to spur expression and creativity among disadvantaged youths. Another will help build songs from words and phrases of children mourning the loss of a loved one. Yet another will get youngsters charged up about the theatrical arts. “Bryan and Kathryn Harvey would approve. At least, their family and friends think so. The Harvey Family Memorial Endowment has approved its first three grants to honor the creativity, generosity and kindness of the South Richmond couple found slain with their two young daughters in their home Jan. 1...”

Update: Defendant No.1 has plead "not guilty" according to AP: "Man pleads innocent in Va. slayings of 4."

Meanwhile, yesterday the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Paige Akin Mudd wrote about the first trial of the two men charged with murdering the Harvey family.

“...Beginning [Monday], prosecutors will present evidence they hope will convict [defendant No. 1] of four gruesome New Year's Day murders in a South Richmond basement. [Defendant No. 1], 28, goes on trial this week in the slayings of Bryan Harvey, 49; his wife, Kathryn, 39; and daughters Stella, 9, and Ruby, 4; in their home on 31st Street in Woodland Heights.

“He faces five counts of capital murder -- one for each violation of the capital-murder statute. The trial in Richmond Circuit Court, which is expected to last through the week and possibly into next, will hinge on a statement [defendant No. 1] made to a detective after his arrest in Philadelphia on Jan. 7. Because of a strict gag order imposed by Circuit Judge Beverly W. Snukals, attorneys and investigators have revealed none of the details of that statement.”

Here’s a second RT-D link to a sidebar story on the trial.

Note: SLANTblog will post links to the trial coverage, but I will not write the names of the two defendants who have been charged with the murders. In this space they will continue to be called defendant No. 1, or defendant No. 2. I want no part of making their names well-known. For plenty of background on this story click here.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Best War/Anti-War Movies

War movies are another cup of tea, when it comes to making a list. Most of the best war movies, in my book, have at least a hint of anti-war sentiment in them. Some might call it sanity; war isn’t just hell, it’s crazy hell. Still, to me a traditional war movie is about the quest to bravely fight out of that crazy hell as part of a larger purpose.

Whereas, an anti-war film is more about the toll of war, the absurdity. Some of the best anti-war flicks don’t have many battle scenes. Thus, two different sets of five faves must be made on the war front. By the way “Dr. Strangelove...” isn’t on my anti-war list because I’m only counting real wars, as opposed to an imaginary war.

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

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Harvey vigil set

On Jan. 3, the first of the vigils for the slain Harvey family -- Byran, 49; Kathy, 39; Stella, 9; Ruby, 4 -- was held at the First Unitarian Universalist Church on Blanton Avenue (just north of the Carillon in Byrd Park).

Tomorrow (Sunday) at 7 p.m. another service for the Harveys will be held there. On Monday the first trial for one of the two men charged with the New Years Day murders will open. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports:

"...The Rev. Alane Cameron Miles said that in the seven months since, she has counseled more than 200 people troubled by the slayings. The church's Sunday's event is meant to offer help with the grief and emotions that a trial can provoke, she said. Although the Sunday event is being called a vigil and will involve the lighting of votive candles, Miles said it is really a service. She said the event is meant to bring hope and calm to the community."

If the reader is not familiar with this tragedy, for background on the story of the Harvey family click here.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Five Favorite ‘50s Science Fiction Flicks

It’s even deeper into Friday, so it’s time to get a bit more esoteric with the Five Faves concept. Now's when to present SLANTblog’s utmost five 1950s science fiction films. Obviously, with this category the aesthetics shift into another realm, altogether. Low-rent aspects of Hollywood were reacting to television by cutting costs. But cheap isn’t always bad. And, sometimes bad can be creatively interesting/funny.

Yes, it was the heyday of exploitative product, much of it made for outdoor exhibition in first release, "drive-ins" as opposed to what were called "hardtops." Here they are:

The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951): Directed by Robert Wise; Cast: Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Sam Jaffe
The Incredible Shrinking Man” (1957): Directed by Jack Arnold; Cast: Grant Williams, Randy Stuart, April Kent
Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956): Directed by Don Siegel; Cast: Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Carolyn Jones
The Thing” (1951): Directed by Howard Hawks; Cast: Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, James Arness
This Island Earth” (1956): Directed by Joseph M. Newman; Cast: Jeff Morrow, Faith Domergue, Rex Reason

Five Favorite Mystery Movies

It’s Friday, so as with last weekend (1, 2, 3), I’m thinking about lists of films. Once again my five favorites list excludes some well-known films that others consider to be within the genre, but I don’t. This time it’s mystery movies.

With my list below, in each case the style on display in the film is as important as any other consideration. So, the lighting, the editing, the music, the overall mood, mattered to me just as much as the plot and the acting. That said, here are my favorite five mystery movies of all-time in alphabetical order:

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

Ban "MacGyver" reruns

To the British police specialists who apparently thwarted a coordinated terrorist plot to blow up as many as ten different airliners in midair, we all owe a huge thanks. That goes for the Pakistani police cooperation that played a key role, as well as our own anti-terror forces.

No need for me to recount the details which have dominated the news in the last day. However, to me, one of the most interesting aspects of this story is/will be looking at who the plotters are. So far the stories indicate that these people were young British citizens whose parents came from Pakistan. They are more or less middle class and they were willing to die in order to carry out their plan.

If all that is true, some of the quotes from the usual Republican windbags don’t make much sense to me. Many seem only designed to pump up approval ratings for a failed war policy. How on earth they can say the war in Iraq is helping to reduce the threat to air travel posed by young religious zealots in Europe remains a mystery to me.

How can they say with a straight face that fighting “them” over there is keeping “us” safer here?

If anything, it would seem the American presence in the Middle East, such as it is, would aggravate the problem these most recent plotters have with America more than anything else. And, to say they hate us for our love of freedom, as President George Bush repeatedly suggests, is absolutely absurd. They hate America, alright. But mostly they hate what Americans have done/are doing in other countries, not what we are doing here at home.

With the types of bombs these would-be martyrs planned to use, perhaps the best thing the our Homeland Security department could do to prevent such plots from hatching would be to confiscate all known tapes of the once-popular ABC television series, “MacGyver” (1985-92), which starred Richard Dean Anderson, and ban the program from the airwaves.

As I remember the show, with his hands tied behind his back, its hero -- Angus MacGiver -- could make a bomb out of almost anything in the room. In spite of all the hate for Americans, I bet “MacGyver” is still a popular show with a certain stripe of Koran-thumping zealot prone to mayhem.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Evil’s Second Coming

F. T. Rea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, to grasp today’s evil perhaps we need a context to measure it. OK, let‘s look around for some world class malfeasance.

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


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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, America is still very much a First World land. And, many Americans are still averting their eyes from righteous grievances in Third World lands.

Uh, oh. This just in -- the official fear color for air travel just got bumped up to red. So, for now, I’ll stick to my bicycle.

No doubt, the poet’s “rough beast” of a monster in the desert, “slouching towards Bethlehem,” is traveling on the back of technology of our own making. It probably feeds happily on the pollution we’re dumping into the environment.

-- 30 --

War on Terror, in a nutshell

Q. What is the War on Terror, as frequently mentioned by President George Bush?

A. It is a slogan that ostensibly labels a Bush administration policy toward various groups it considerers to be terrorists. The policy encompasses the occupation of/war in Iraq, the partial occupation of/war in Afghanistan, the hunt for Al-Qaeda boss Osama bin Laden, and all other measures -- both offensive and defensive -- that have been undertaken by the USA since the 9/11 attacks to respond to those attacks. It also now means supporting Israel in its struggles with its Arab neighbors.

Q. Does America’s War on Terror concern itself with terrorism in Northern Ireland, or terrorism by Basque separatists, or in South America?

A. No. At present it seems directed only at groups of an Islamic persuasion?

Q. When did terrorism start?

A. It depends on who one sees as a terrorist. Terrorism has been used by various groups, usually underdogs, in history dating back to the Roman Empire. Others trace its origins to the Crusades or the mid-1800s in Europe. The American guerillas of the Revolutionary War who shot at the British from behind trees, rather than stand in columns, were seen by the Brits as using shameful tactics no civilized people would employ.

Q. What has spawned most of the terrorism in the modern era, since World War II?

A. Disputes over land stemming largely from invasions/occupations of Third World territories by First World powers, which have led to grievances, then to grudges, then to violence, etc. Thus, one man’s terrorist can be another man’s guerilla style freedom fighter.

Q. What makes an explosion terrorism, as opposed to other ways of characterizing it?

A. As a tactic, terrorism’s violence frequently targets civilians. It is meant to send a harsh message to civilian populations in order to wither their support of policies of their governments. Usually, when a government uses terror as a tactic it is not called “terrorism,” but it works the same way, in that its aim is to coerce civilians to call for change.

Q. Since terror has no address, it’s been around so long and has been used by so many groups, how can any country hope to win a war on a tactic? Moreover, acting without the total support of most other countries in the world, is Bush's policy mostly a shell game?

A. Both are good questions. So far, the Bush administration’s answer is just to restate the slogan.

Note: Following the example of Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, both questions and answers are by SLANTblog.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Fawley gets 30 years for murder of VCU student

The news that Benjamin Fawley has plead guilty to killing Taylor Behl, and will not stand trial in tiny Mathews, Virginia comes to me as good news. AP reports, “Man gets 30-year sentence in Va. death.”

“An amateur photographer was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in prison in the death of a college student whose body was found in a shallow grave with the help of photos on the man's Web site. During the hearing, Benjamin Fawley, 39, cried as he entered an Alford plea, in which he did not admit guilt, but acknowledged prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him...”

This has been a story too close to home, as SLANT’s semi-sumptuous headquarters is located in the Fan District, just blocks from both Behl’s VCU dorm and what was Fawley’s apartment. And, having the media circus start up again was not something I was looking forward to.

Likewise, I’m glad that Mathews will not have to endure the same. While some down there might have welcomed the attention, I think most people in that area live there because they want to avoid such hurlyburly.

No, I’m not satisfied that Fawley, with his dark and creepy gaze, has told the whole truth yet. I’m not even sure he was acting alone when and where whatever happened to Behl, happened. I do kind of doubt a trial would have gotten us much closer to the truth. But I am sure it’s a sordid tale that would have stayed at the top of the news for the length of the trial.

Plus, at this point I have no doubt that Fawley was involved in the murder of Taylor Behl, who was 17 when she breathed her last breath, wherever that was.

From what I’ve read about this crime, and the evidence gathered, and Fawley’s strange confession, I had been worrying that the Commonwealth might not have had a good case for convicting him of Murder One.

Now there’s no chance Fawley will walk. He got 30 years, we can worry about him later, much later. My heart goes out to the dead girl’s family and friends. I’m just glad it’s over.

Say it ain't so, Joe

Joe Lieberman, who was elected to his third term in the US Senate the same day he lost his bid to win the Vice Presidency -- as Al Gore’s running mate in 2000 -- lost a Democratic primary in Connecticut yesterday. But, in spite of his loss, once again, Lieberman wants two bites of the apple. Now he says he is running for reelection as an Independent.

Reuters reports:

“U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman defeat in Connecticut offered tangible evidence of Democratic anger with President George W. Bush and the Iraq war and could be an early sign of a strong anti-incumbent mood before November’s election, analysts said on Wednesday. Lieberman, a three-term senator and vice presidential nominee in 2000, filed petitions on Wednesday to run as an independent against Democratic primary winner Ned Lamont after falling under a wave of voter anger for his war support.”

Charlottesville blogger Waldo Jaquith’s timely take on Lieberman’s plan to ignore the will of his fellow Democrats in Connecticut, and the sound advice of Virginia's Gov. Tim Kaine, is titled, “Sore Loserman after all.” Here’s a blurb from his post which hit the bulls-eye.

“... It is now clear that Sen. Lieberman’s top priority is Sen. Lieberman. Not the integrity of the process. Not his party. Not his state. Not the U.S. Senate.”
Illustration: F.T. Rea


Notice of a new non-partisan charity to help the families of Americans in the armed services comes in from blogger Extreme Mortman:
ThanksUSA” stands for Treasure Hunt Aiding Needs of Kids (and spouses) of those Serving the United States of America. It began in August 2005, when two schoolgirls had a “brain blast” to create a treasure hunt to help America’s active-duty service people. Their enthusiasm captured the support of their teacher, their parents, neighbors, corporations and Congress.

Now The Treasure Hunt is underway. Participants can win prizes while helping a worthy cause. To learn more about this click on the link below to an interview with the two girls who started all this, Kelsi Okun, 8, and Rachel Okun, 10, for details.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Coldest Warrior

By F.T. Rea

August is usually a slow month for news, so we are spoon-fed anniversaries to contemplate: Hiroshima’s 61st, Woodstock’s 37th, and it was 32 years ago, tomorrow, when Richard M. Nixon resigned from the presidency. Since his death 12 years ago we have been asked to reconsider Richard Nixon.

Fair enough, let’s give the man his due: The entire culture shifted gears the day President Nixon threw in the towel. The brilliant strategist, the awkward sleuth, the proud father, and the coldest of warriors had left the building.

August 9, 1974 was a day to hoist one for his enemies, many of whom must have enjoyed his twisting in the wind of Watergate’s storm. It was the saddest of days for his staunch supporters, whose numbers were legion. Either way, Richard Nixon’s departure from DeeCee left a void that no personality has since filled.

For the first time since his earliest commie-baiting days, in the late-‘40s, Dick Nixon didn’t matter. With Nixon gone being anti-establishment promptly went out of style, too. With the war in Vietnam no longer a front burner issue, "streaking" -- running around outside naked -- replaced the anti-war rally as the most popular gesture of defiance on college campuses.

Soon what remained of the causes and accouterments of the ‘60s was packed into cardboard boxes to be tossed out, or stored in the basement. Watergate revelations killed off the Nixon administration’s chance of instituting national health insurance. Many people have forgotten that his regime was easily more liberal on racial and environmental matters than any before it. Although he was a hawk, Nixon was moderate on social issues.

His opening to China, and efforts toward détente with the Soviets, are often cited as evidence of Nixon's ability in the realm of foreign affairs. No doubt, that was his main focus. But at the bottom line, Nixon is remembered chiefly as the President who was driven from office. And for good reason.

Nixon’s nefarious strategy for securing power divided this country like nothing since the Civil War. Due to his fear of hippies and left-wing campus movements, Nixon came between fathers and sons. To rally support for his prosecution of the Vietnam War he demagogued and exploited the bitter division between World War II era parents and their Baby Boomer offspring in such a way that many families have never recovered.

However, Nixon’s true legacy is that since his paranoia-driven scandal, the best young people have no longer felt drawn into public service. Since Watergate, for 30-some years now -- taken as a whole -- the citizens who’ve gravitated toward politics for a career have not had the intellect, the sense of purpose, or the strength of character of their predecessors. Some trace the cycle of endless paybacks across the aisle to that era. as well.

We can thank Tricky Dick for all that and more.

So weep not for the sad, crazy Nixon of August, 1974. He did far more harm to America than whatever good he intended. On top of that, he had twenty years to come clean and clear the air. But he didn’t do it. He didn't even come close. In the two decades of his so-called “rehabilitation,” before his death in 1994, Nixon just kept on being Nixon.

Some commentators have suggested that he changed over that period, even mellowed. Don't buy it. The rest of us changed a lot more than he did. While I acknowledge his guile and I tip my hat to his monumental gall, President Nixon was a man who choked on his own bile. So spare me the soft-focus view of the Nixon years.

Yes, dear reader, I’m here to remind you, and the horse you rode in on, that Tricky Dick Nixon's fall from grace should be a lesson to us all -- he got what he deserved.

Illustration: F.T. Rea (1999)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Webb, still a contender?

“Born Fighting” was a good title for a book about an embattled people, whose history it describes. Now Jim Webb’s paid campaign experts have apparently figured out that as a slogan/theme for a run for a US Senate seat in 2006, it was not helping the cause.

Well, here’s more news for that set -- it never was a good slogan/theme for this campaign. But to a pack of frustrated anti-war Democrats, who were tired of being cast as wimps, perhaps back in the winter its swagger was just too seductive. Webb was a war hero, he was even a boxer at Annapolis, so they just couldn’t resist it.

It makes George Allen look like a sissy, they chanted, between gulps of Kool-Aid. Then it turned out it only worked on people who already thought George Allen was a sissy. So, nothing much was being gained. Maybe something was lost?

Now, four weeks from Labor Day, it’s disappointing to admit that all I can see Webb’s camp has accomplished for the candidate I’m pulling for this year is to convince some people to call James Webb, the author, “Jim,” as a candidate. Beyond that, as far as issues go, they have asserted that Webb is no longer a supporter of Sen. George Allen, and that he opposed the invasion of Iraq.

What else?

No alternatives. No clear vision of what should be, or should not be. In the spring Jim Webb had a chance of beating George Allen. It never was a good chance, but on the heels of Tim Kaine’s gubernatorial win, it was possible. Now, it will take a miracle.

Still, miracles happen. Allen may stumble. Events overseas may shift radically. Three months can be a long time in politics. If James Webb, the much-lauded military strategist, keeps listening to the same sort of lame advice he’s relied upon so far, he won’t even be in position to take advantage of such an opportunity, if it presents itself.

Getting rid of the Born Fighting thing was good, but what replaces it? Born Slightly Disagreeing? Born Begging for Money from People Not Listening? Born to Lose?

Unless, he’s already quit and just playing out the string, Webb needs to show the bold leadership his avid supporters have touted, by taking charge of affairs. He needs to stop speaking through surrogates, pronto, and make some news with his own words. He probably needs to fire some people, too.

Like the ex-boxer Terry Malloy (played by Marlon Brando) in “On the Waterfront” (1954), it seems Webb has been betrayed by bad advice from those closest to him. Still, I’ll always believe the guy who wrote “Born Fighting” coulda been a contender ...
Art: F.T. Rea

Satchel Paige at Parker Field

Buck O’Neil, the former All-Star first baseman and a manager in the Negro Leagues, who later on became the first black coach in Major League Baseball, was hospitalized yesterday (Sunday), according to this AP story, “Buck O’Neil Hospitalized for Fatigue.”

"'The 94-year-old O’Neil was admitted to a hospital Saturday after complaining that he didn’t feel well,' said Bob Kendrick, a friend who also is marketing director for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. ‘Mostly the doctors just wanted to be extra cautious with him,’ Kendrick said Monday. ‘They just wanted to slow him down a little.’”

Many modern baseball fans got to know O’Neil when he served as one of the prime story-tellers in Ken Burns’ splendid PBS documentary “Baseball” in 1994. His warm personality and yarn-spinning talent has made him a favorite with millions of fans who never saw him play baseball for the Kansas City Monarchs.
Satchel Paige, circa 1949

When I think of O’Neil, it isn’t long before my remembrance of Leroy “Satchel” Paige (1906-82) flickers onto the screen in my head. I can see him on the mound at Parker Field, with his windmill windup, then that high kick and smooth release. Long after his days as the best pitcher in the Negro Leagues, following his years in the American League, Paige was on the roster of the Miami Marlins (1956-58), of the International League. So, too, were the Richmond Virginians, or V's, for short.

When I saw him Paige was in his early-50s, maybe a little more, as his age was always somewhat disputed. Not a starter, anymore, he worked out of the bullpen. The boos would start as soon as some in the crowd noticed his 6-3, 180-pound frame warming up in the middle of a game. When he’d be called in to pitch in relief, the noise level would soar. White men were booing with practiced passion. Not all the white men booed, but many did, especially the old ones. And, as children will do, a lot of the white kids broke the other way, to cheer.

In 1971 Paige was the first of the Negro Leagues’ stars to be admitted to Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame, based mostly on his contributions before he helped break the Major League color line. The statistics from his pre-Big League days are mind-boggling. Some say he won about 2,000 games and threw maybe 45 no-hitters. Sometimes, he'd pitch every game in a week's schedule.

Yet, for many white adults in Richmond -- 50 years ago -- then caught up by the thinking that buoyed Massive Resistance, any prominent black person was seen as someone to be against. So, they might have booed Nat King Cole or Duke Ellington, too. But Paige was more than a star athlete, he was a first class showman. Long before the impish poet/boxer Muhammad Ali, there was the playful Satchel Paige, with his famous six guidelines to success:
  • Avoid fried meats that angry up the blood.
  • If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
  • Keep the juices flowing by jangling gently as you walk.
  • Go very lightly on the vices, such as carrying-on in society - the society ramble ain't restful.
  • Avoid running at all times.
  • Don't look back, something may be gaining on you.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame's short bio on Paige reads as follows:

“Leroy ‘Satchel’ Paige was a legendary storyteller and one of the most entertaining pitchers in baseball history. A tall, lanky fireballer, he was arguably the Negro leagues’ hardest thrower, most colorful character and greatest gate attraction. In the 1930s, the well-traveled pitcher barnstormed around the continent, baffling hitters with creatively named pitches such as the Bat Dodger and Hesitation Pitch. In 1948 he was sold to Cleveland on his 42nd birthday, becoming the oldest player to make his major league debut, while helping the Indians win the pennant.”

So, in 1957, Paige would take forever to walk from the bullpen to the mound. Then each of his warm-up pitches would be a big production, with various slow-motion-like full windups. Once he was ready, when the batter dug in, the first thrown ball from Paige whistled toward home plate with blinding speed for a strike, every time, and the kids went nuts again.
Paige with two young Marlins teammates

At the time I hadn’t the slightest idea that what I was seeing was an aspect of the changes the South was going through, then, to do with race. Like most of the other boys, I mostly got a kick out of seeing Paige piss off all those old goats who couldn’t stand him. It was fun. Plus, I instinctively liked Paige, he was naturally cool.

Paige, of course, knew very well he was in the South. Being from Mobile, Alabama, he knew what was going on. He was a consummate performer, who knew there wasn’t much he could do to change the boos. So, he good-naturedly played to the cheers, just as he always had.

Instead of looking back, now I know Satchel Paige was seeing the future.