Saturday, June 30, 2007

Habits and Rules

In the last couple of years, as political blogging has become steadily more popular, “ethics, ” to do with blogging, has been a recurring topic. Last year Conaway Haskins wrote several thoughtful posts on the direction of political blogging and the possibility of establishing a code, a set of rules that bloggers might promise to abide by. Others have written quite a bit along these lines.

All of which is fine with me. It’s a good thing when people pause to consider what are the right and wrong things to do in connection to any endeavor. But I still question whether a published list of commandments would change the tone of the Virginia political blogosphere all that much. The worst offenders don’t care about rules.

If a person habitually cheats at whatever game they play, no code is going to transform them into an honest blogger. When we bloggers sit down at the keyboard we bring our already established sense of right-and-wrong with us.

If a blogger needs a rule to stop them from contacting a rival blogger’s boss in an effort to get the rival fired, they probably won't follow any rules about common decency in the blogosphere that say don‘t do that. If a blogger needs to be told not to spread false malicious rumors about other bloggers, it’s likely a waste of time telling them not to do it.

If some bloggers enjoy getting their noses out of joint and throwing monkey wrenches at bloggers’ conventions, because they tend to measure their clout by what harm they can do to things others care about -- what they can ruin -- I doubt any rules will change their ways, either. It seems to happen with each such convention.

If a blogger is a bully and lout in real life, they bring that with them, too. If they have tended to lose their temper and call people names in the real world...

Of course if such a person blogs/comments on blogs anonymously, then they might feel free to be even more abusive. So, I do believe that allowing anonymous players to come to the party makes mischief even more likely. Haskins struggled with the question of whether anonymous bloggers could be a part of the Commonwealth Society of Bloggers he proposed establishing.

My take on this front is that leading by setting a good example is the best thing one can do in the long run. There are some smart, talented and honest people publishing political blogs in Virginia. Maybe not as many of them as one might like -- but there are some. They show that they care about their reputations by how they behave.

There are also some people blogging who obviously believe anything they do in pursuit of their agenda is OK. Anything their little squirming-toad minds can think of is alright to do. Anything! Which side of the aisle they’re on doesn’t matter. And, since they could care less about ethics, they won’t be curbed by blogging rules.

Recently, I’ve heard some bewildering stories about blogger bad behavior. Some of it concerns the upcoming Blogs United convention, scheduled to take place July 13th and 14th, in Newport News. So, I want to wind this post up assuring my readers that while I will not be attending that convention, I am not part of any sneaky plot to undermine its success.

My best wishes go out to the organizers of the Blogs United confab. For trying to make the event a bipartisan affair, I salute the convention’s planners. I hope the bloggers who attend will find the time to discuss the time-honored value of leading by setting a good example.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Best Democratic ticket?

Hillary Clinton does a good job of representing New York in the US Senate. Still, I hope she does not get the Democratic nomination to run for president. She’s just carrying too much baggage. With her on the ticket it would surely turn the campaign’s focus to the past. Democrats need to think and talk about the future.

Among the other serious contenders, right now I like Bill Richardson the best. But I would have no trouble supporting John Edwards or Barack Obama. Which of the three would run a stronger race is another matter. Then, of course, there’s Al Gore ... is he running, or what? Again, I hope not. More heavy baggage.

Maybe the strongest ticket would be Obama/Richardson?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Team SWAC's secret agenda?

SWAC is an acronym for Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County. In the last year, within the Virginia political blogosphere, and environs, that acronym has come to be associated with a cadre of prolific bloggers who ostensibly share a political philosophy. The publishers of blogs known as SWACgirl, Spankthatdonkey, General Grievous’ Dog and Journal of the Common Man have been the most visible players in that group.

Most recently, the SWACronyms banned together with a few other ultra-conservative bloggers in that part of Virginia to put over a candidate they liked, Scott Sayre, in a Republican primary. Sayre was defeated by the incumbent, Emmett Hanger. Now the verbose losers are choking on the crow set before them on their plates.

In a SLANTblog post on December 30, 2006, I jokingly suggested that maybe there was something in the drinking water out that way, something that was making some people crazy. For background click here to read “Something strange in Staunton's water supply?

The SWAC bloggers, called "SWACsters" by some who have written about their rabid style of pursuing everyday politics, attack anyone/everyone who questions their collective thinking, or sleazy tactics. For a little more background, if you like, the Richmond Democrat has a post on the latest SWAC-driven tempest in the mountains -- click here to read “Staunton, Virginia: Local politics as bloodsport.

Still, I’m not writing these words to support any of the Democrats the SWAC clique has attacked, nor any of the Republicans, or Libertarians, or Dixiecrats, or Whigs, or Frisbee-tarians, etc. Currently they’re after a Republican out their way named Andrew Clem, an insider who has shown the temerity to suggest to other Republicans that maybe Team SWAC's way of doing business is actually not so good for the future of the GOP.


It hit me this morning -- maybe the SWACsters are moles!

Maybe, just maybe, they are in deepest cover -- donkeys to the bone wearing blow-up rubber elephant suits. Maybe their true mission is the destruction of the Republican Party as we know it in Virginia.

Maybe that former Democrat, Rep. Virgil “Foghorn Leghorn” Goode (R-VA5th), is part of their conspiracy. That would be a far better explanation for his recent attention-getting, throwback antics ... better, ah say, than we’ve heard out of him so far.

Yes, I know that’s far-fetched. But when you look at the splendid job Team SWAC has done to tear the Virginia GOP big tent apart at the seams -- and how effective it has been! -- such a conspiracy could explain it.

OK. If I have outed some under-cover Democrats, self-styled secret agents bitter over the stolen election of 2000, or the invasion/occupation of Iraq, or inadequate disaster relief in New Orleans, or whatever, well, I’m glad I’ve done it.

That’s because of this: As much as I will be happy to see the Democrats win back the majority in the General Assembly, and the White House, this is not the way it should happen. This is too much like Karl Rove and Dick Cheney would do it.

On the other hand, if the SWACsters really are sincere about being Republicans, and trying to elect Republican candidtaes, then I have to go back to my theory about the water. It could help them wash down some of that meal 'o' crow, ah say crow, still stuck in their throats.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

All Dick, all the time

Vice President Dick Cheney has once again become the lightening rod for the Bush Administration, as noted by this Washington Post story:

"Democratic senators on Sunday chided Vice President Dick Cheney for declaring his office exempt from sections of a presidential order involving matters of national security. Republicans, more cautiously, said the matter deserves review. At issue is a requirement that executive branch offices provide data on how much material they classify and declassify. That information is to be provided to the Information Security Oversight Office at The National Archives..."

Click here to read more about President George Bush's impeachment insurance.


Update: The Washington Post is also examining Cheneyis role in the Bush administration in a four-part series by Barton Gellman and Jo Becker, “Angler} The Cheney Vice Presidency” .

“...Cheney's proposal had become a military order from the commander in chief. Foreign terrorism suspects held by the United States were stripped of access to any court -- civilian or military, domestic or foreign. They could be confined indefinitely without charges and would be tried, if at all, in closed "military commissions."

“‘What the hell just happened?’ Secretary of State Colin L. Powell demanded, a witness said, when CNN announced the order that evening, Nov. 13, 2001. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice, incensed, sent an aide to find out. Even witnesses to the Oval Office signing said they did not know the vice president had played any part.”

Click here to read part one, “A Different Understanding With the President.”

Click here to read part two, “Pushing the Envelope on Presidential Power.”

Click here to read part three, “A Strong Push from Backstage ”

Art by F.T. Rea.
Click here to learn how to get the image above on a T-shirt

Monday, June 18, 2007

When will Libby walk?

Now that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby has been told by the judge that he’s soon going to have to wage his continued attempts to overturn his convictions from behind bars, the pressure on President George W. Bush to pardon Libby is going to grow with each summer day that passes.

A piece on this topic by Mike Allen at The Politico was posted yesterday.

“...Convicted by a federal jury in March of obstruction of justice, perjury and lying to the FBI during the CIA leak investigation, Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff is to surrender in the next few weeks to begin serving his sentence, if his emergency appeal is rejected. Some Republicans sense momentum toward some kind of presidential action toward Libby, as evidenced by the increased openness shown by the 2008 GOP presidential candidates to a pardon.”

Click here to read the rest of Allen's piece.

To me, it isn’t a question of whether Bush will intervene. I have little doubt that eventually he will. It’s a matter of how and when. Which means I see Bush as facing the decision of whether to pardon Lewis, outright, or to reduce his 30-months sentence. And, it means that Cheney needs to decide when is the best time to tell Bush to make such a tricky move -- one that surely will draw fire from many Democrats, as well as some Republicans.

This situation screams out for predictions. So, here is mine:

SLANTblog says Bush will commute Libby’s sentence, rather than pardon him. Dubya will proclaim his action to spring Scooter to be a strictly “humanitarian” move. This will happen in the Dog Days of August. And, to provide some cover for trumping what a jury decided and a judge ruled, Bush will “regretfully” also accept the resignation of his embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales within days, maybe even hours, of springing Libby from the pokey.

Someone should start a contest/pool to name the day Bush will free Libby. Everybody kick in a dollar ... earliest prediction to name the exact date wins all.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Best of the blogs?


This post is being made with the hope that some of my colleagues in Virginia’s political blogosphere will help me out. I’m working a writing project which has to do with political blogs, and I’d like to get some other opinions. As much as some bloggers seem to like to compare and rate blogs, maybe this will be fun.

So, dear reader, please lend me your opinion.

In each of the three categories listed below, which Virginia blogs -- from both sides of the aisle -- do you think are consistently the best? If you want to say why, that’s fine. It’s OK to put the same blog down in more than one category, too, but please don’t list more than three in any one category; no blogrolls.

By the way, no anonymous comments will be accepted this time around (they will be deleted ASAP). And, don’t bother to mention SLANTblog, I’m not fishing for compliments. Likewise, I’m not trying to determine which blogs you think are the most popular or influential in Virginia. Instead, I want the names of the blogs you respect the most for their top-shelf content.

Of Virginia’s political blogs (on both the left and the right), which do you consider to be the:
1. Best written
2. Most responsible and honest
3. Best at analysis/the most politically astute

Friday, June 15, 2007

Good show on tap for a good cause

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
A whole day of live entertainment to benefit a most worthy cause -- the Harvey Endowment for Arts and Humanities -- will unfold tomorrow (Saturday, June 16) at the Granite Pool, located at 6432 Glyndon Lane (off Forest Hill Avenue). It’s called “Day of Mirth.”

Tickets cost just $5.00. There will be food to purchase. Coolers are welcome, but no glass or breakables please. Here’s the schedule:

Noon to 1:30 p.m. -- The Ululating Mummies
2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. -- Unite
4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. -- Buttercup
5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. -- Jonathan Austin
6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. -- NRG Krysys

Note: The Harvey Endowment for Arts and Humanities was established to memorialize the much-missed Harvey family, murdered on Jan. 1, 2006. For background please click here.
-- Hat tip to Buttercup

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

SWACsters and Sayre go down in flames

Waldo Jaquith, a politically astute Charlottesville blogger, has a nice post up about a primary race that was painfully near his neck of the woods. It’s well worth reading because it nicely illustrates how, even in politics, sometimes mean-spirited lowbrows get exactly what they deserve. It happened yesterday in the 24th Senate district.

The race pitted two Republicans against one another in a contest that was particularly marked by its mudslinging from a extremist faction -- some of them anonymous bloggers who’ve recently been outed -- trying to unseat an incumbent.

“If you’re going to try to kill the king, you’d better not fail.

“Last night, a band of extremist Republicans failed. After spending months trying to oust the far-right Sen. Emmett Hanger with the even farther-right Scott Sayre, they were defeated at the polls...”

Click here to read, “Sen. Hanger defeats Sayre in primary.”

More SUV trouble?

There are a lot of opinions in the densely populated Fan District. Having lived in the Fan for most of my life, I know something about how they have clashed at times.

For instance, over the years people who live in Richmond’s Fan District have argued over just where the boundaries of the neighborhood actually are. They’ve bumped hard heads over where to put stop signs, and which streets to make one-way. They’ve even battled over what colors can and cannot be used to paint back doors.

There are already restrictions covering who can park their cars where and when. Now comes this -- a move calling for restricting where big fat SUVs can park, anytime. The story is at the Fan District Hub; click here to read “Trouble in paradise: SUVs in the Fan.”

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The numbers; read 'em and weep

Following a light turnout in most precincts, here are the results from the State Board of Elections for a few primaries that might interest area political aficionados:


State Senate District 9:
McEachin -- 58%
Lambert -- 42%
Payback equals a 16% margin.

House District 74:
Morrissey -- 38%
Miles -- 27%
Three others -- 35%
He's ba-a-ack!


State Senate District 12:
Stosch -- 51%
Blackburn -- 49%
The incumbent wins, but only by a nose.

State Senate District 24:
Hanger -- 53%
Sayre -- 47%
What now for the losing SWACsters?

House District 72:
Massie -- 58%
Wheat -- 34%
What's the difference?

Payback for Benny

A month after then-Senator George Allen’s infamous Macaca Meltdown began to ruin his chance for reelection, Allen received the endorsement of Benny Lambert. It was a head-scratcher. Why would a longtime state senator, a black Democrat from Richmond, choose to back a white conservative Republican incumbent US Senator, who was then standing waist-deep in troubles to do with racial insensitivity?

Well, I still can’t answer the question. The answer Lambert offered then, about black colleges getting a good deal from Allen, was rather flimsy. So, I can only guess that Lambert didn’t like Allen’s opponent, Jim Webb, all that much. And, like all the pundits, he thought Allen would still win the election.

And, I can only guess that Lambert’s strange move -- to turn against his own party, rather than just sit on his hands -- had to do with some personalities. Namely, they were Mayor Doug Wilder and Lambert’s opponent in today’s Democratic Primary in the ninth district, Donald McEachin. Now I don’t pretend to know what the details are, but Lambert has seemed at odds, publicly, with those two formidable black politicians at times.

Naturally, some Democrats blew their tops and wanted the turncoat drummed out of the party. Some Democrats got so angry about it they acted as if his backing Allen for reelection was tantamount to endorsing a serial killer or a child molester.

Later today push will come to shove. When the votes are counted, we’ll see how much Lambert’s long stay in the General Assembly, and his many connections, will withstand all the payback that is coming his way. And, since anybody can vote in Virginia’s primaries, maybe some Republicans will turn out to thank Lambert for what was his futile gesture.

My guess is that you can stick a fork in Benny -- he’s done.

Monday, June 11, 2007

More rough justice for Bush

Which means more good news for those of us who actually believe in truth, justice and the American way. Reuters has the story:

“President George W. Bush cannot order the military to indefinitely imprison a suspected al Qaeda operative, who is the only foreign national held in the United States as an ‘enemy combatant,’ a court ruled on Monday. The 2-1 appellate ruling was a major setback for Bush’s contention in the war on terrorism that he has the power to detain people in the United States without charging them.

“The court panel based in Richmond, Virginia, ruled that the Qatari national involved, Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, must be released from military custody.”

Click here to read the story.

Of course, for the Bush loyalists who like to believe that we should forget all about the Constitution and legal precedent -- because we are so afraid, or we hate so much -- this ruling will be seen as a setback in the so-called War on Terror.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Blogging karma

Seems this week’s theme in the political blogosphere might be -- what-goes-around-still-comes-around. That is because it has come to pass that at least two of the loudest and frequently most obnoxious voices among Virginia’s high-profile political bloggers are getting a strong dose of payback served their way. Payback that many would consider long overdue.

Ben Tribbett, the publisher of the Not Larry Sabato blog, takes a hammering from Jason Kenney in his post at J’s Notes, “A Carnival of Credibility.

Kenney closes with this:

“...In order to work on ethics and credibility in the Virginia blogosphere, we need to be ready to call out those with questionable ethics and credibility. Until we take our worst elements to task for lowering the bar, we are simply continuing to allow them to poison the well. The time has come for the Virginia Blogosphere is starting to take those elements to task and they're answering the call.”

At Richmond Democrat, J.C. Wilmore pulls no punches in his post, “The secret life of Dr. Kurt Michael,” which focuses on the man who is purported to be behind the notorious blog, General Grievous’ Dog.

“...Dr. Kurt Michael's blogging style was characterized by the use of scatalogical humor. He often portrayed his enemies sitting on toilets or wearing diapers. His victims included both Republicans like Shaun Kenney and Democrats like Waldo Jaquith and Phriendly Jaime. Kurt Michael liked to post his personal attacks on other bloggers while hiding behind a screen of anonymity, showing himself to be both a bully and a coward.”

Lowell Feld of Raising Kaine weighs in on the current flap with his post, “Republicans Gone Wild!!!

“...What's most amazing about this whole “SWAC” situation is that at least two of them - Staunton Republican committee chair Ann Taetzsch and Augusta County Republican committee chair Kurt Michael actually are high-ranking Republican Party officials. Is this what Ed Gillespie signed on for when he came to Virginia to run this insane asylum state Republican Party?

Now let the blustery denials and countercharges begin...

Remembering the Goddess

This goddess stood 33 feet tall in the Fan District in June of 1989

To read about one of the coolest things ever to happen in the Fan District, art-wise -- a spontaneous gesture that nobody made a penny out of -- go to the Fan District Hub to read "The Goddess of June 4, 1989."

"...Subsequently, on June 4, 1989, following orders, the People’s Liberation Army charged in to put an end to the demonstration. Mayhem ensued. Made of chicken wire and plaster the Goddess was destroyed during the brutal routing of the protestors that had remained to the end, in defiance. Although reports varied widely, hundreds, if not thousands, were killed. As the drama played out on television, via satellite, the events shocked the world.

"As their art student counterparts in China had been murdered in the shadow of their 33-foot-tall sculpture, in Richmond a group of VCU-affiliated artists heard the call of inspiration to stand with those who had fallen. They knew they had to build a replica of the lost Goddess. The impromptu team of local artists worked around the clock for the next couple of days to give form to the rising tribute to the courage of those who had perished for freedom of expression.

"While the project was not sponsored by the school, wisely, VCU did nothing to discourage the gesture."

Click here to read "The Goddess of June 4, 1989."

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Does credibility matter in the blogosphere?

Jason Kenney at J’s Notes pulls the curtain back on a somewhat convoluted story about a specific set of circumstances in a particular race. But it’s also a story about whether credibility, ethics or just common decency in the political blogosphere are concepts that will ever really matter.

When such lofty thinking is openly sneered at by some of its most important players, can the Virginia political blogosphere police itself? Click here to read “Ben Tribbett And A Crisis Of Credibility.”

Tribbett's blog, Not Larry Sabato, is a web site popular for publishing gossipy tidbits about political camps and other bloggers, plus its rather mean-spirited comments section. Supposedly, it is published from an Democratic insider's point of view, but its actual motives frequently seem open to question.

Anthony Grant in fives: should I stay or should I go?

While VCU basketball fans wait for word of whether the University of Florida has convinced Anthony Grant to turn his back on the Rams, we might as well try to put ourselves in his shoes. So, why would Grant, VCU men's head basketball coach, want to return to Gainesville, Florida, to coach the Gators?

1. He lived there for 10 years when he worked as an assistant coach on Billy Donovan’s staff, and he likes it there.

2. He is going to be paid a yearly salary of a million dollars, or more, which is more than double what he is now making at VCU.

3. He is from Florida, actually Miami, and he has a network of friends and contacts there.

4. Florida has won two straight national championships, which means it has a momentum that makes it one of the premiere programs in the country.

5. Everyone expects him to take the offer from Florida.

OK, now why would Anthony Grant shock the sporting world and turn Florida down, to stay at VCU?

1. He lived in Gaineville, Florida for a decade and maybe that’s enough.

2. He is absolutely confident he will get other offers in the future that will equal or top Florida’s.

3. He likes working at VCU, likes Richmond, and he wants to coach the particular players he will have here next season.

4. Florida has won two straight national championships. Which means following Donovan will be something like following Dean Smith at North Carolina, or Bobby Knight at Indiana -- meaning nothing will please some of those who see now Donovan as a saint.

5. Everyone expects him to take the offer from Florida.

The Anthony Grant era (season) at VCU

It is widely expected that Anthony Grant will be offered the head coaching job at Florida, and he will accept it. Grant, who won the CAA's Coach of the Year honor in his first season (28-7) at VCU, will be making news soon, whatever he decides to do. It would certainly be bigger news if he decides to stay on at VCU.

According to reports now circulating, Grant's top assistant at VCU, Tony Pujol, who also came to VCU from Florida a year ago -- who, like Grant, is also from Southern Florida -- has moved to the top of the list of those possible candidates most likely to replace Grant.

From SLANTblog and here are selected highlights from the 2006-07 basketball season, which will supply some background on Grant, and some of the reasons he is being sought-after by Florida today.

Not your daddy’s VCU Rams

...Something very interesting, hoops-wise, is in its early stages of development here in the Fan District. The Rams new coach, Anthony Grant, has VCU playing at a pace just short of a runaway train, but almost magically, the players are not out of control.

VCU atop the CAA

...Asked after the game if he ever considered using a junk defense on Neal, Rams head coach Anthony Grant smiled and shook his head. Many coaches prefer not to use box-and-ones, or other such off-balance defenses.

“It was tempting,” said Grant. Then he smiled more widely as he shook hands with his happy boss, VCU president Dr. Eugene Trani, who is a frequent visitor in the Siegel Center’s media room.

VCU outlasts ODU

...Led by point guard Eric Maynor’s play down the stretch -- he finished with 23 points, six assists and five boards -- the Rams outplayed the Monarchs until the final buzzer to seal the victory. Shooting guard B.A. Walker’s 19 points, five boards and three assists were key, as well.

“I tell [Maynor],” said VCU head coach Anthony Grant, “our team is going to go how he goes.”

Coach Grant also spoke proudly of his team’s gritty play in the second half of what was truly a tough game.

VCU and Duke?

Now the first-ever matchup with the high and mighty Blue Devils comes by way of the NCAA tournament, a year after Capel’s departure. This irony won’t be lost on the VCU players, who, facing this first-round game, may well be much hungrier than Duke’s.

Well, I think VCU has an excellent chance to defeat Duke. This is the weakest Duke squad we’ve seen in years and VCU is being coached by the first-year head coach who surely will be one of the most, if not THE most, sought-after coaches in the country in a month -- Anthony Grant.

Rams outlast Blue Devils

...As one who has covered VCU’s basketball program as a sportswriter for over two decades, I have to say this is as good a Rams team as I've written about. And, as a guy who went to VCU, I have to say head coach Anthony Grant is already the best coach the Rams have ever had; he is the ninth in school history.

The Bounce

...New coaches and players and will come and go, but for departing VCU seniors Jesse Pellot-Rosa and B.A. Walker, Coach Grant and the greater Rams' family, they will always have Buffalo.

Photos: SLANT