Thursday, August 30, 2007

Macaca payback scheme fizzles

Commentary on the Virginia political blogosphere:

As the Old Dominion Blog Alliance plays out its hand in the game it called, as the dealer, we’ll see if it can actually sell the childish, dirty tricks shenanigans of Joe Stanley and Ben Tribbett as newsworthy to the mainstream press.

With the hook “Dem blogs refuse to condemn Stanley and Tribbett properly,” I wish them the luck they deserve. Hey, if newspaper editors are buying that pitch as happening news, well, I’ve got a bridge to nowhere I’d like to sell them.

It is worth noting that there is no lefty, Democratic equivalent to the junior high school frat party, echo chamber that is the ODBA. And, there has been nothing from any organized group of progressive bloggers at all like chest-pounding posts such as -- “We are the ODBA!”

Shiver me timbers!

Perhaps it is worth remembering that prominent Virginia Republicans have been busted for illegal eavesdropping, and worse in recent years. And, so forth .. and so on. Neither party has a clean record on this sort of thing.

Why pretend it is otherwise? Punish the guilty and move on.

Some of Virginia’s blogging Republicans, who are apparently obsessed with “macaca payback,” don’t seem to realize that merely saying someone was part of promoting/enjoying that humorous campaign story last year doesn’t strike the average voter as being a mortal sin.

It is also worth considering that if your good name is connected with a bunch of crackpots, because you continue to be a member of their trouble-making blogging team -- after it has gone too far -- then you are probably running a risk you should think about.

At this desk, it seems the ODBA's rather silly scheme has already fizzled. Without an ongoing hot-contest campaign to hitch this story to, no one outside of those who closely follow the copycat blatherings of the blogosphere gives a whit.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Best and worst local politicians?

Ross Catrow has created his own survey to discover what are the Bests and Worsts of Richmond at his blog, Haduken. Well, over the years at SLANT I've always liked the idea of running my own surveys, rather than taking the word of a Richmond Magazine, or a STYLE Weekly. So, I like what Ross is doing, but I wish he had asked at least a couple of questions about politics and politicians.

To help out, here are a couple from SLANTblog:
  • During this year, who has been the most effective, and the least effective, local politician in the Richmond area (that would include the mayor, members of the city council and the counties' boards of supervisors, school board members, Commonwealth's Attorneys, etc.)?
  • What is the issue/situation that you believe has been most mishandled over the eight months of 2007 that have passed?
If you want to play just put your answers in the comments section.

Then, to participate in the ongoing survey at Haduken, which seeks to reveal which restaurants serve the best hamburgers, what is the best neighborhood in which to live, what park you enjoy the most, and which blogs you like best, etc., click here.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Shenanigans, righteous indignation and a crock

It seems the publisher of Not Larry Sabato rather enjoys being in the middle of controversies that draw attention to his blog. So, he, who goes by the name Ben Tribbett, is only too happy to create them.

If I paid more attention to that gossip-driven blog I’d know more about some of the supposedly underhanded things other bloggers routinely accuse him of being in on. But, in truth, I already know all I need to know to decide to ignore Not Larry Sabato. Likewise, I know Democrats who have little or no respect for its publisher.

Currently, members of the Old Dominion Blog Alliance are expressing their outrage at Not Larry Sabato over its latest transgressions.

In this case, Tribbett is said to have been a party to some dirty tricks style shenanigans that sought to put the ODBA in a bad light. Yet, in their eruptions of righteous indignation some members weaken their own argument with their over-the-top language. Some seek to tar all Democrats with the dirty deeds of a few. Some can’t get over former Senator George Allen’s unraveling on last year’s campaign trail.

Sure, it may be galling that Tribbett loves to brag about his “role” in the Macaca Meltdown that did so much to deliver the victory to Senator Jim Webb. Some guys live to brag. But blaming/crediting those who helped to facilitate the widespread awareness of the incriminating video at YouTube for Allen’s own mistakes is looking at the matter with tunnel vision.

It’s over ... let it go.

On August 11, 2006, Tribbett wasn’t videotaped acting like a drunk bully and mouthing the strange word “macaca.” No, that was George Allen. And, then it was Allen’s own ridiculously bad damage control that kept the story at the top of the political news for weeks. Ben Tribbett and Joe Stanley didn’t have a hand in that series of flubs; it was Allen’s media expert Dick Wadhams who managed that folly.

To continue to blame bloggers and the liberal media for Allen’s terrible performance in the campaign is preaching to the choir at best; at worst, it’s the sort of denial of plain-to-see truth that a George Bush-led Republican Party is becoming too well known for.

Furthermore, when I read that unless I come out and condemn Ben Tribbett, or Joe Stanley, or whoever some members of the ODBA say I should condemn, that it is tantamount to my endorsement of their low-road tactics, well, that puts me off.

Here at SLANTblog, it is no secret that I’ve have pushed away from Not Larry Sabato’s doings before, more than once. However, it is not my duty to point an accusing finger at that blog, or any blog, every time I disagree with what goes on there. And, to be scolded by crackpot rightwingers who consistently write “Democrat(ick)” -- simply to be annoying -- is a crock.

Word to the wise: If you have the moral high ground, don’t lose it by tripping over your own feet by slinging careless words in every direction.

Vick story: the revenge of dead dogs

As has been widely reported the ever illusive Michael Vick has reversed his field, once again, this time to admit he had been lying when he denied his involvement with dogfighting. Click here to read “NFL’s Vick says guilty in dogfighting case” from Reuters.

No doubt, as part of the deal he has made with the feds, Vick will be required to roll on others involved in the “enterprise.” So the man who set the National Football League record for the most rushing yards ever gained in a season by a quarterback will emerge from this episode branded as a disgusting man who delighted in torturing dogs, a liar, as well as a snitch.

The bizarre story of the evil doings at Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels operation has been on the front pages of newspapers and at the top of broadcast news for weeks. Although many are sick of the story, it continues to fascinate many more. And, the sidebars continue to spin off the story of a celebrity pro athlete gone wrong.

Yet, just how wrong Vick’s crimes should be seen as seems to be in the eye of the beholder. How bad is dogfighting?

If boxing and “tough man” competitions are legal, why is dogfighting so wrong? Can dogfighting be seen as just another bloody sport, like hunting? And, if animals are shamefully abused all the time by the companies that raise them by the millions in torturous conditions, to eventually be food for us -- ever see how calves live on their way to becoming veal? -- then why should Vick go to jail for killing a few pit bulls?

Beyond concerns for the dogs, is there a racial component in how Vick has been treated by the federal authorities or the police department down in Surry County, where Vick’s kennel from hell was discovered? Should justice for Vick be viewed through a prism of what injustice has been done to others, down through history? And, why can’t the press move on to another story?

Maybe the discussions those questions raise will do some folks some good. For others, maybe not. As for me, rather than try to answer them all, in this space I’m going to deal with only the last one on that list: Although there’s no single reason this story has been so big, there is one reason that overshadows the others. While other sports celebrities have committed crimes that might properly be seen as worse than Vick’s, none of them were as bizarre, even unthinkable.

So, while I usually side with those who chastise the working press for its dwelling on certain frivolous/tacky stories -- the death of Anna Nicole Smith, Paris Hilton in jail, etc. -- this time, I have to admit the unfolding Vick dogfighting yarn has real legs, based on how unprecedented it truly is. This one is stranger than a man-bites-dog story, because it amounts to dead-dog-bites-back.

Then there are those who have been Vick fans, who are refusing to accept -- no matter what -- that one of their favorite football players from Virginia Tech, or the Atlanta Falcons, is a total scumbag. They want him back on the playing field because he’s been too much fun to watch as he escaped from would-be tacklers. All of which makes me feel sorry for the good people who have admired Michael Vick. They have been betrayed and they are hurting.

As for when, or if, Vick will be seen on the playing field again, it says here that the NFL is by far the most buttoned-down of all the professional sports overseeing bodies. It certainly doesn’t want PETA activists dressed up like tortured dogs demonstrating at every game. And, that’s exactly what will happen if Vick returns.

Furthermore, the image-conscious corporations that act as sponsors and partners are never going to want anything to do with tricky Michael Vick again.

Eventually, we’ll know how much time Vick will serve for the crime he has admitted he committed, and whatever crimes the Commonwealth of Virginia can make stick to him. Once he’s done his time, I will be surprised if we ever see the radioactive Mr. Vick play another down in a NFL game.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Blood Isn't Just Red

The piece that follows was published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch on its May 1, 1999 OpEd Page. The point it makes about the long-term effects of repeated violent images on television still seems apt to me.

Blood Isn’t Just Red
by F.T. Rea

Television has dominated the American cultural landscape for the past 50 years. A boon to modern life in many ways, television is nonetheless transmitting an endless stream of cruel and bloody images into everyone’s head.

However, if you’re still waiting for absolute proof that a steady diet of video violence can be harmful to the viewer, forget it. We’ll all be dead before such a thing can be proven. This is a common sense call that can and should be made without benefit of dueling experts. Short of blinding denial, any serious person can see that the influence television has on young minds is among the factors playing a role in the crime statistics.

How significant that role has been/is can be debated.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m as dedicated to protecting freedom of speech as the next guy. So perish the thought that I’m calling for the government to regulate violence on television. It’s not a matter of preventing a particular scene, or act, from being aired. The problem is that the flow of virtual mayhem is constant.

Eventually splattered blood becomes ambient: just another option for the art director.

My angle here is that in the marketplace of ideas, the repeated image has a decided advantage. The significance of repetition in advertising was taught to me over 25 years ago by a man named Lee Jackoway. He was a master salesman, veteran broadcaster, and my boss at WRNL-AM. And, like many in the advertising business, he enjoyed holding court and telling
war stories.

He had found me struggling with the writing of some copy for a radio commercial. At the time he asked me a few questions and let it go. But later, in front of a group of salesmen and disc jockeys, Jackoway explained to his audience what I was doing was wrong. Basically, he said that instead of stretching to write good copy, the real effort should be focused on selling the client more time, so the ad spot would get additional exposure.

Essentially, Jackoway told us to forget about trying to be the next Stan Freeberg. Forget about cute copy and far-flung schemes. What matters is results. If you know the target audience and you have the right vehicle to reach it, then all you have to do is saturate that audience. If you hit that target often enough, the results are money in the bank.

Jackoway told us most of the large money spent on production went to satisfying the ego of the client, or to promoting the ad agency’s creativity. While he might have oversimplified the way ad biz works to make his point, my experience with media has brought me to the same bottom line: When all else fails, saturation works.

Take it from me, dear reader, it doesn’t matter how much you think you’re ignoring the commercials that are beamed your way; more often than not repetition bores the message into your head. Ask the average self-absorbed consumer why he chooses a particular motor oil or breakfast cereal, and chances are he’ll claim the thousands of commercials he paid no heed had nothing to do with his choices.

Meanwhile, good old Lee Jackoway knows that same chump is pouring Pennzoil on his Frosted Flakes because he has been influenced by aggressive advertising all day long, every day.

OK, if repetition works so well in television’s advertising, why would repetition fail to sell whatever messages stem from the rest of its fare? When you consider all the murders, all the rapes, all the malevolence that television dishes out 24 hours a day, it adds up. It has to.

What to do?

I have to believe that if the sponsors of the worst, most pointless violent programs felt the sting of a boycott from time to time, they would react. Check your history; boycotts work.

It’s not as though advertisers are intrinsically evil. No, they are merely trying to reach their target audience as cheaply as possible. The company that produces a commercial has no real interest in pickling your child’s brain with violence; it just wants to reach the kid with a promotional message.

If enough consumers eschew worthless programs and stop buying the products that sponsor them, the advertiser will change its strategy. It really is that simple.

As we all know: A day passes whether anything is accomplished or not. Well, parents, a childhood passes, too, whether anything of value is learned or not.

Maybe television is blocking your child off from a lesson that needs to be learned firsthand -- in the real world where blood isn’t just red, it’s wet.

* * *

Friday, August 17, 2007

Wilder means well ... because he's good at it

In 1994 Richmond’s voters said plainly in a citywide referendum that they wanted a change in the way school board members got their jobs. Rather than continue to be appointed by city council members, the voters -- about 80 percent of them -- said they wanted school board members to be elected by the people.

It was hailed as a step toward more democracy when the change was implemented.

Ten years later, about 80 percent of the votes cast in a citywide plebiscite selected Richmond’s first mayor by a direct vote of the people since the late-1940s. Mayor Doug Wilder had led the fight to change the city charter to allow for that direct vote ... later he surprised few observers when he decided to become a candidate for the job he had done more than anyone else to create.

Given the chance to register their sentiments, it seems that four out of five Richmonders prefer their democracy poured straight, rather than watered down by the appointment process.

Now, three years later, it seems the mercurial Mayor Wilder has lost his faith in the will of the people. Now, in 2007, we see the third prong of Wilder’s battle plan to punish and control a recalcitrant Richmond School Board -- in a recent letter some of his wealthiest and most influential allies from the business community called for school boards to go back to being appointed, rather than elected.

Now, given Wilder’s history of being obsessed with payback and changing his mind at the drop of a hat, we can see that even in his golden years his vindictiveness is trumping all else.

Wilder, probably the most talented Richmond politician of the last half-century, is good at identifying malfeasance and boondoggles. He came down on the ballpark in Shockoe Bottom bad idea like a tons of bricks. But then he turned around and wanted to put the thing in a worse location, to bolster a development on the river he favors. To date, the issues of building a better baseball stadium and keeping the Braves in Richmond remain up in the air.

Wilder also put the kibosh on the Virginia Performing Arts Center’s terrible execution of a terrible plan. Then, after a lot of bluster, he turned around and approved of a plan that looks a lot like a watered down version of the original one.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m not defending the Richmond School Board’s record. However, not all of Richmond’s schools are underachieving. Some are and that needs fixing. But is evicting the School Board from City Hall a way to make those schools any better?

Or, big smiles aside, is it just more meanness from a guy who is damn good at being mean?

When will Mayor Wilder solve some problems, instead of merely pointing out blame? When will he use his considerable powers of persuasion to calm things down, foster cooperation and bring real progress to the City of Richmond?
Photo: SLANT

Monday, August 13, 2007

Dr. StrangeRove's departure

Now, so we are told, Karl Rove is about to make what some would say is his long overdue exit from the numbing DeeCee political whirl, to return to "private life." Meanwhile, here's my only Rove 'toon, so far; it was done a couple of years ago.
Dr. StrangeRove gasped, "It would not be difficult, Mein F├╝hrer! Nuclear reactors could easily provide, heh... I'm sorry, Mr. President."

Interestingly, former George Mason student Rove may have a little history in the Fan District, where it is purported that a young Karl and his first wife lived for parts of the summer of 1978. Alas, most of what I have heard is off-the-record ... too bad.

Apologies to Peter Sellers and Stanley Kubrick. 'Toon by F.T. Rea

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A year after 'macaca'

One year later. How much has changed? How much is still the same as it ever was?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Had enough of The Barry?

Watching the Mets beat the Cubs on Sunday night I got to see one of my favorite pitchers, Tom Glavine, win his 300th game. The classy Glavine is one of just five southpaws to win that many games.

During the broadcast one of the announcers mentioned that Glavine had plunked Barry Bonds (negative above right) during the 1987 game which became his first victory. Of course, I enjoyed that tidbit. Barry Bonds is one of my least favorite baseball players of any era.

Since last night Bonds finally hit tater No. 756, to pass Hank Aaron -- who was as consistent and stoic as it gets in his day -- on the career home runs list, maybe there is a chance we will see less of The Barry's literally and figuratively bloated head.

Of course, people will think what they like of the new and unfolding home run record. It is what it is. And, I suspect millions of baseball fans will be happy to see and hear less of the surly Barry Bonds for the rest of this season. After all, he plays on a bad team that is going nowhere.

Disclaimer: By the way, my favorite team is the Atlanta Braves.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Oliver Hill in bronze

Oliver W. Hill (1907-2007), who died on Sunday morning in his Richmond home, will be memorialized in bronze next year.

Covering the official unveiling of the plan to install a new Virginia Civil Rights Memorial on the grounds of Capitol Square, Michael Hardy wrote about the $2.6 million project, which is being financed by private funds. Here is an except of Hardy’s piece that appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on May 15, 2007:

“...The four-sided memorial will feature 18 bronze figures showing Prince Edward’s Moton High School protesters, modern-day blacks and whites walking together and civil-rights pioneer the Rev. L. Francis Griffin, who led the community campaign. It will also depict Oliver W. Hill and Spottswood Robinson III, the lead attorneys in the case included in the Supreme Court’s five Brown v. Board of Education desegregation decisions in 1954.”

Here’s some background on the project:

In January of 2002, Eliza, the youngest daughter of Virginia’s 69th governor, Mark Warner, noticed there were no statues honoring females among the six monuments she saw on the grounds of what would be her yard for the next four years. Nor were there any statues remembering significant figures of the Civil Rights Era.

Eliza asked her mother, Lisa Collis, why that would be so.

That Collis started to thinking, which eventually led Virginia’s then-First Lady to consult with others to help fill in some of the gaps in Virginia history in the statuary of Capitol Square her child had pointed out. Now, after much behind-the-scenes work, the new monument with 18 figures of men, women and children mentioned above is in the works.

The sculpture being made by Stanley Bleifeld will commemorate an unusual student demonstration in 1951 -- which was led by a 16-year-old girl named Barbara Johns -- and the events it set in motion. To protest the deplorable conditions in which they found themselves at Robert R. Moten School, a dilapidated all-black school in Farmville, students staged a “walk-out.”

Although it was change they were seeking, those brave students had no way of knowing where their peaceful demonstration’s walk would lead. After all, much of the worst violence of the Civil Rights Era of the 1950s and '60s was still to come. Nonetheless, risking all, they took those first steps.

Eventually, the students were joined by civil rights attorneys Oliver Hill and Spottswood Robinson and others. Together, those determined Virginians wrote an inspiring chapter of the commonwealth’s history this new monument will symbolically gather and present in bronze for all to see, upon its unveiling next summer.

Click here to visit the web site of the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial’s foundation. Once there, you can see a preview of what the Bleifeld sculpture will look like and learn more about how this all came about.

Click here to read more about Barbara Johns. And, here.

Click here to go to artist Stanley Bleifeld’s site.