Friday, October 31, 2008

Handy Mayoral Election Guide

This election season I've been writing on politics for (an entity that's in the news today because Media General just bought it).

To give my SLANTblog readers, such as they are, a concentrated dose of the mayoral race -- which a lot of people have just gotten around to noticing, because they've been so focused on the national race -- here are links to some of those articles.
Sept. 25: The Mayoral Debate
Oct 7: Empowering Tomorrow's Leaders
Oct. 16: Goldman Wins ...
Oct. 22: The Wilder Factor
Oct. 28: Mayoral Issue No.1: Regional Cooperation
Oct. 29: The 15th Debate
Oct. 30: Batter Up! The Return of Baseball as an Issue
Beyond my coverage there are a few other bloggy sources, in particular, I'd like to point you toward. Reading some of their coverage might help you, if you're one of those undecided voters. These web sites have presented many thoughtful posts on the mayoral race, so look around.
Buttermilk & Molasses
Save Richmond (Updated)
Richmond Good Life (Updated)
RVANews (Updated)
Daniel Farrell's video highlights of 3rd Mayoral Debate (at RVANews)
What occurs to me now is that it's a shame there weren't mayoral debates on television this fall. Perhaps it would have helped some candidates more than others. For sure, it would have helped the process of selecting a mayor a lot.

More links to sources for information on the mayoral race are below:
Rachel DePompa's Blog (WWBT Channel 12)
InRich Mayoral Page
Finally, for a good overview look at the McCain vs. Obama race in Virginia click here to go to RealClearPolitics' page for it. At this writing RCP's poll averaging system has Obama ahead by 6.5 percent.

Goldman, Grey and the VAPAF sunlight issue

There's a lively conversation going on at the Fan District Hub, a community news web site/neighborhood blog that I publish. It started with a couple of cracks I made to set up a link to the Back Page piece that Bill Farrar wrote for STYLE Weekly about Paul Goldman.

Now it has evolved into other areas.

School Board member Carol Wolf has weighed in. Save Richmond's publisher Don Harrison has commented. Naturally, Oregon Hill's publisher Scott Burger couldn't just lurk and keep his opinion to himself. Robert Grey's campaign manager Lisa Fulton has been heard from.

And, of course, just for kicks, the crackpot element has had its say... click here to see what fun some local political junkies are having four days before the election.

Update: My mistake of misspelling Scott Burger's name has been corrected in my post but not in my comment to anonymous. Sorry Scott. Thanks Don.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Change: can you dig it?

Question: On Nov. 4th, can we the voters change the way power is gained and used in America?

Answer: Yes! we can.

Question: Can you dig it?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Oct. Surprise: MacKenzie and Grimsley say, 'Boo!'

The Richmond Times-Dispatch is in much the same trouble as many daily newspapers. Our local fishwrap is not taking in the ad revenue it needs to make ends meet.

Adjustments have been made -- the paper has shrunk, its roster of talent has shriveled. And, that painful process had been underway for some time before the economic meltdown on Wall St. What's next?

Well, instead of being smart and lowering the price -- so more people might see the ads -- the RT-D raised its single copy price in September, from 50 cents to 75 cents. Desperate times apparently call for, ah ... desperation.

Yesterday's editorial section offered about as pathetic a signal as I can imagine, in an election year about "change," for a daily trying to catch up with 2008's reality. The editorial page ignored it own list of reasons to endorse Mark Warner for senator, so it could endorse Jim Gilmore -- an awkward politician, known for his stubbornness, who is probably going to lose by 30 points.

This would have been such an easy time for the RT-D's editorial writers to unveil a willingness recognize that genuine talent should sometimes trump staying true to an ideological school. Alas, it still doesn't matter how lame the Republican is, old habits die hard.

On the OpEd page it was worse. The warmed-over opinions of the RT-D's retired warhorses from its old days as the state newspaper of record, Ross MacKenzie (depicted above) and Edward Grimsley, were featured.

MacKenzie, who for some time hasn't seemed to be able to hold a thought for more than a couple of paragraphs, cut and pasted the words of others into his space. The words he chose were all meant to frighten voters away from Sen. Barack Obama. Click here to read his scary-as-an-orange-leisure-suit "column."

Grimsley, at least did some writing -- he goofed around with Obama's middle name.
... He is Democrat Barack (H-word) Obama. Because his middle name is popular with Muslims, Obama's supporters accuse people who use it of trying to link him to anti-American terrorists, most of whom happen also to be of that faith. So throughout this long and tiresome presidential campaign, the media have identified him only as "Barack Obama," even as they have referred to his chief rival for the Democratic nomination as "Hillary Rodham Clinton."
Click here to consume Grimsley's candy corn, just in time for Halloween.

As far as what to call a person goes, isn't it just good manners to call them what they ask us to call them? That is, unless we have an agenda.

If Sen. Clinton wants us to include her maiden name, so be it. If Sen. John McCain wants us to leave out his middle name -- Sidney -- that's fine. To do otherwise would be petty.

Looking at that double-truck spread of opinions dredged up from yesteryear made me shake my head and think this -- how can the Richmond Times-Dispatch change to serve today's readers, if it just can't get out of its own way?

Like, unless they are selling a product or service that appeals to whatever is left of the Massive Resisters and Cold Warriors, why would any business looking to appeal to an audience under 45-years-old buy an advertisement in that withering newspaper?

Can a daily newspaper be kept alive on ads for adult diapers and hearing aids?

-- Words and art by F. T. Rea

Update: Read Don Harrison's post at Save Richmond -- on Pantele & RT-D endorsement.

The Mayoral Issue: Regional Cooperation

What's the most important issue in the race to replace Mayor Doug Wilder at City Hall?

It depends who you ask. But some would say it's regional cooperation. At the candidates address that issue in a report on the mayoral contest written by yours truly.
Lack of regional cooperation lies at the heart of many of Richmond’s problems, the sort of overshadowing problems that stumping politicians talk about having solutions for ... yes, solutions for, all the time.

Eventually, cheap talk and patter aside, somewhere down the road ahead, more regional cooperation is bound to come about for the Richmond metropolitan area. One day, it will happen simply to save money on duplication of services. But given the checkered history the concept has in these parts -- together with Virginia’s peculiar set-up, which has independent cities landlocked without the ability to expand -- and you know it’s still going to take an altogether fresh approach in leadership to make it happen.

Richmond’s next mayor will need to sell regional cooperation like never before.
Click here to read the entire piece.

Monday, October 27, 2008

From fiasco to fantasy

Last fall, it was a fiasco that made bad news for the turf-war-fighting mayor at City Hall. That fateful Friday night's confusion revealed a shocking lack of reason at the heart of the government housed in that building.

Today's news at City Hall was maybe a step or so beyond one night's fiasco. Once again it's about turf.

According to a report by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the recently completed Master Plan, calling for professional baseball to continue to be played on the Boulevard, has apparently been blown off.

It seems a newer new plan for a baseball stadium to be built in Shockoe Bottom has trumped the Master Plan. That, even as the new deal ignores a stark reality that suggests way too many baseball fans -- families, Little League teams, church groups, etc. -- won't be comfortable in that raucous neighborhood at night.
The company chosen by Richmond to develop public property along North Boulevard and in Shockoe Bottom has plans for $785 million in construction in those two areas, including a baseball stadium downtown.

Highwoods Properties, in a presentation this afternoon to Richmond City Council, outlined plans for a new, 6,500-seat stadium between East Franklin Street and East Broad Street as part of a proposed $363 million town center in Shockoe Bottom.

Click here to read the entire article at inRich.

To think that this is the proper time, money-wise, to talk about borrowing millions to shoehorn a new baseball stadium into Shockoe Bottom is nothing short of absurd. What's beyond fiasco?

It looks like blithe fantasy, as a parting shot, is the answer this time. With two months remaining in Mayor Doug Wilder's four-year term, what's next?

Who knows?


  • "Baseball in the Bottom; new look for the Boulevard," click here to read it at inRich.
  • Click here to read what RT-D columnist Michael Paul Williams has to say.

Skinheads' murder spree plot uncovered

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has apparently foiled a plot by so-called "skinheads" living in Tennessee and Arkansas to commit mayhem.

In court records unsealed Monday, federal agents said they disrupted plans to rob a gun store and target a predominantly African-American high school by two neo-Nazi skinheads. Agents said the skinheads did not identify the school by name.

Jim Cavanaugh, special agent in charge of the Nashville field office for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said the two men planned to shoot 88 black people and decapitate another 14. The numbers 88 and 14 are symbolic in the white supremacist community.

The men also sought to go on a national killing spree, with Obama as its final target, Cavanaugh told The Associated Press.

Click here to read the entire article.

Now, will Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin -- who have been so focused on a 1960s anti-war activist, slapping the label "domestic terrorist" on Bill Ayers -- call these two neo-Nazis "domestic terrorists"?

When a pro-life activist blows up an abortion clinic, or a segregationist blows up a a church, is that "domestic terrorism," too? Where does one draw the line to separate terrorist crimes from the crimes committed by everyday racists and homegrown religious fanatics who are Christians?

The Wild(er) Card

The results of the Mason-Dixon poll on the local mayoral race, which the Richmond Times-Dispatch published yesterday, have Robert Grey (13 percent) standing far behind Bill Pantele (32 percent) and Dwight Jones (30 percent). For what it's worth, Lawrence Williams got 2 percent and "undecideds" came in at 21 percent.

The poll's supposed margin for error is 4.5 percent. Click here to read about that story at inRich.

Tuesday night the third and final of the League of Women Voter/STYLE Weekly mayoral forums will take place at the Library of Virginia, (800 E. Broad St.), between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

On one level this race can be seen as being split along racial lines. The poll says Jones is far ahead with black voters and Pantele is far ahead with white voters.

But there are other dynamics at work in this contest. With the most adamant anti-Doug Wilder votes being split between Jones and Pantele, a good question to ask is: where will the remaining pro-Wilder support fall?

After all, the same Mason-Dixon poll said 35 percent of Richmond's voters still heartily approve of Wilder's performance as mayor. Who will win those votes? At the last minute, could they all go toward one candidate, voting as a block?

At the last big debate, can any of the three still in contention (Goldman dropped out last week) say something -- October Surprise-like -- that would shake up this race? Is there a Wild(er) card yet to be played?


Update: Outgoing school board member Carol Wolf has endorsed Robert Grey. Read what she has to say at RVANews, by clicking here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Obama on real and fake America

Sen. Barack Obama at the Richmond Coliseum on Oct. 22, 2008:
Let me tell you something ... 'cause I know you've been hearing a lot of stuff, lately. There are no real parts of the country and fake parts of the country. There are no pro-American parts of the country, and anti-American parts of the country...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Harrison on Goldman's departure

Once again Save Richmond's publisher Don Harrison does a good job of summing up a local political story, speaking from a perspective that many thoughtful Richmonders -- including a few bloggers, in particular -- share with him, as it is unfolding.

All-Star blogger Harrison comments on the exit of idea-machine Paul Goldman from the mayoral race.
No, Goldman wasn’t running a distant fourth in the Mayor’s race because he didn’t have ideas — he has had those in spades and perhaps a few too many. Goldman was lagging behind because he never received support from the rich Republicans who have traditionally pulled Richmond’s puppet strings — Robert Grey is their candidate (look for the RTD endorsement soon!) — or from developers salivating over precious river views — those would be Bill Pantele’s people — or from a tired city Democratic machine responsible for the kind of go-along leadership that provoked the city to begin electing its own mayor in the first place — that would be the voting block pushing Dwight Jones. This is Richmond, remember — we run in packs.
Click here to read Don's entire post, "Out of the Box."

Remember Florida

At this point, with the opinion polls reporting Obama is likely to win by a double-digit margin, some desperate minds are squirming like toads.

Now the Republicans want to defend, even vote for, Joe the Plumber. Reality has gotten so grim they're just making stuff up at this point. Meanwhile, who knows how many nitwits are still in charge of counting votes in states like Florida?

No doubt, the Republicans would rather have this year's presidential election decided by the Supreme Court than the voters.

-- Words and art by F.T. Rea

The Wilder Factor

A new, post-Goldman-withdrawal analysis of the Richmond mayoral contest, "The Wilder Factor," is up at It was penned by your narrator.

At various mayoral forums in different parts of town Paul Goldman, Robert J. Grey, Jr., Del. Dwight C. Jones, Councilman William J. “Bill” Pantele and Lawrence E. Williams, Jr. have all made remarks that were critical of the sitting mayor, L. Douglas Wilder.

Some have been more pointed and direct than others.

Not one to let such slights pass, Mayor Doug Wilder, a former state senator and governor, picked his time -- 16 days before Election Day -- to weigh in on Richmond’s 2008 mayoral race. He picked his place by flexing the unlimited license he seems to have to opine on the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Commentary/OpEd pages.

In bold print Wilder was dismissive of those seeking to become just the second popularly-elected mayor of Richmond in 60 years; the sitting mayor announced that his would-be replacements “just don’t make the grade.”

Click here to read the entire piece.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

post-graph theatre

OK. I know I've got to split off my sudden video craze for old movie shorts and music videos from SLANTblog. Now there's a separate place for the new YouTube fascination -- the post-graph theatre.
This is the first post for my new blog. While less than a manifesto, it should give my reader a sense of what I intend to do here.

This new blog -- post-graph theatre -- comes after five years of doing SLANTblog, so, this is yet another spin-off from that first blog.

Of course this effort has everything to do with my show biz jones that stems from my days as manager of the Biograph Theatre (1972-83) and promoting live music shows (1978-95). Plus, I once had a radio show -- The Number 9 Show on Color Radio (1982-84) -- where I could play whatever I liked at the moment. Most deejays don't get to do that anymore.

Ever since those times I have missed finding and presenting movies and music to audiences.

At this web site I will present both short films and music. The posts will fall under two categories: the Rebus Cinema and the Number 9 Show. For now, my source will be YouTube. We'll see, down the road, where this experiment takes us.
Click here to read the entire post and peruse the post-graph theatre web site.

Monday, October 20, 2008

City Registrar too busy

The City Registrar's office in Richmond once had a woman named Alice Lynch running it. In those days it was possible to call the office and get help with research over the telephone. When I called or went by the office I was treated with respect by workers who saw it as their job to be helpful. Lynch, herself, didn't mind looking up obscure facts, even old stuff written in logs by hand, to satisfy a request.

Now, when I call the modern, computerized registrar's office -- run by a woman named Kirk Showalter -- I get a runaround about how busy they are. Sometimes, the most simple questions about candidates are met with what some refer to as attitude.

So, I'm left to wonder, does Showalter have a smaller staff than did Lynch?

Richmond is no bigger than it was in Lynch's day, but for whatever reason now they are much busier. Under Lynch that office was clearly there to serve the taxpayers, including the working press. Now the registrar's staff would rather complain about how overwhelmed it is than do its job.

Wilder slams would-be mayors

Apparently Mayor L.Douglas Wilder doesn't like the tone of the politics this season. No, this post isn't about Obama and McCain going after one another. It isn't about robo-calls across the state.

It is about the candidates running for mayor in Richmond. Wilder is unhappy about how some of them are talking about him.

You didn't know this race was about Doug? Well, if you read his piece that appeared in the Sunday Commentary section of the Richmond Times Dispatch, you'll understand.

One candidate for the past three years has used his position on the City Council simply to further his political career while continually disparaging and undermining the city.

Another candidate, who opposed the direct election of the mayor both before and after the people approved it by a margin of four to one -- and even protested to the Justice Department that the change would violate the Voting Rights Act -- now wants to lead them. A third candidate who many thought had the potential to be a new leader has shown no recognition of any positive change that should be continued.

Click here to read the entire piece, "Would-Be Successors Just Don't Make the Grade," which comes across mostly as petty criticism of any politician who dares to suggest that Wilder's style of leadership over the last four years has been disappointing.

Of course, Hizzoner means well ... mean is easy for him.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Will Richmonders see 'Torturing Democracy'?

There's a new documentary, "Torturing Democracy," that isn't scheduled to be shown -- so far -- in Richmond. It's subject matter, torture, is disturbing, so it's no wonder that it isn't showing on all PBS stations.

To see a clip from this documentary that aired tonight (Friday) on some PBS stations, click on the YouTube box above. To see other brief clips, click here, here, here, here, and here.

It's been 62 years since 10 prominent Nazis were executed, having been found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg Trials that followed World War II. Their fate said for all to see that in the civilized world, torture -- even during a war -- is always going to be viewed as a crime.

Yet, it seems that perhaps a third of Americans, according to opinion polls, believe it can be proper to torture certain captives in prosecuting the so-called War on Terror.

Hey, why not? If popular action television heroes can use the old thumbscrew on their foes and get results within a one-hour format, then shouldn't the USA's armed forces, spies, and mercenaries/contractors have that same tool in their war toolboxes?

No doubt many other Americans aren't so sure when it might be OK to use torture. Still others have made up their minds that torture is immoral and against law of the land. And, of course, there are those who would rather not even think about such a dark subject.

Meanwhile, since torture is illegal in America, President George Bush has insisted: "This country doesn't torture. We're not going to torture." Then, conveniently, the White House has refused to define torture, so its predictable denials have been something less than satisfying.

But some of what's been going on down at Gitmo, and in other dark corners of the world, is going to cause problems, down the road. It always does. In the long run, torture is perhaps most indefensible because it inevitably poisons the future; more tortured parents and siblings means more children growing up obsessed with payback.

To see this film in its entirety, or to learn more about "Torturing Democracy," click here.

If you want WCVE to show this documentary in Richmond, click here to send them an email, or, you can call Janet Campbell, Director of Television Programming for WCVE at (804) 560-8126.

La Jetée

"La Jetée" is one of my favorite films, long or short. It uses a technique with still photos that gives it an eerie lost-in-time quality that is haunting.

Made by Chris Marker in 1962, it is just 28 minutes long. My first viewing of "La Jetée" was at the Biograph Theatre, in my initial year as its manager (1972). It was a popular art house film and we played it several more times while I was there.

Now, through the magic of YouTube, you can watch the entire film. Its pace is slow and the story is a little creepy at times, so don't try to watch it too late in the day/night. And, remember, it's just a story, don't let it blow your mind too much.

Another Number 9 Show

More music from YouTube for the Number 9 Show, a flashback to a nearly imaginary radio show (1982-84). For your listening pleasure (occasionally the visual aspect of them is interesting, too, but this exercise is more about the sound), click on the links in order.

One ... Two ... Three ... Four ... Five ... Six ... Seven ... Eight ... Nine.

For background on the Number 9 Show click here.

Play safe ... stay cool.

Baseball in '09?

At STYLE Weekly Scott Bass takes a realistic look at the baseball issue.
Mayor L. Douglas Wilder’s promise that Richmond will have a new professional baseball team suiting up by spring is quickly becoming a dim dream.

The two developers the administration is considering haven’t released any details — to the public or to City Council — and big questions remain: How much will a new stadium cost taxpayers? What’s the best location for a new stadium? Will the city’s regional partners, particularly Chesterfield and Henrico counties, agree to the plan? There’s also that pesky little financial crisis gripping the economy, which could imperil financing.

Still, the Wilder administration has yet to address the most important question: Why is it necessary to rush a deal in order to bring in a new baseball team by the spring?
Click here to read "Extra Innings."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Is Frederick the face of the GOP?

The Republican Party in Virginia is not having a good year. Polls suggest that Sen. Barack Obama will be the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1964. The GOP’s senatorial candidate, Jim Gilmore, may lose to Democrat Mark Warner by 30 points. Apparently, the elephants couldn’t find a better candidate.

To make matters worse, the new chairman of the Virginia's Republican Party franchise, Del. Jeffrey M. Frederick (depicted above), has grossed out the man at the top of their ticket, Sen. John McCain, with his rather lowbrow sense of humor. Frederick's reckless style may go over well in some dark corners of the political landscape, but realists know he is putting an ugly face on conservatism.

By the way, earlier this year Virginia Republicans installed Frederick because the extremely capable John Hager, who started the year as the state chairman, was seen as far too sane and civilized to lead suicidal neo-Republicans.

Maybe the elephant symbol of the party should be replaced by a lemming?

-- Words and art by F.T. Rea

Political Analysis

Two new pieces about political contests are up at, both penned by me. The first is about the Gilmore vs. Warner contest.

Its fractured history notwithstanding, in the new millennium the Republican Party’s centrists, conservatives and ultra conservatives still can’t seem to stop battling along ideological lines. Arguing over the blame for former Sen. George Allen’s unexpected stumble against Sen. Jim Webb in 2006 has once again put Republicans at odds with one another, arguing over purity issues.

This lifts the backdrop curtain to reveal some of the important dynamics in motion behind the brightly lit stage on which the two candidates stand.

Click here to read all of "Dueling Former Governors"

The second is about the Richmond mayoral race.
Following the candidates’ opening remarks, Style staff writer Brandon Reynolds asked the night’s first question. It was a gotcha ploy designed to reveal the candidates’ lack of exposure to bands such as Municipal Waste and GWAR. Although the question itself was garbled, the tactic worked, as none of the hopefuls behind podiums showed any familiarity whatsoever with the heavy metal/thrash aspect of Richmond’s diverse music scene.
Click here to read all of "Goldman Wins ..."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Last Presidential Debate Verdict

Both men used plenty of boilerplate phrases to stroke their most loyal supporters. Both wanted to firm up their bases.

Once again, Sen. John McCain was a little creepy at times, but he was steadier than he has been in recent weeks. Sen. Barack Obama was relaxed and kept on keeping on.

Hey, when you're way ahead and the game is in the 4th quarter, everybody plays a prevent defense.

SLANTblog's judging, on a scale of 1-to-10:

Obama - 6
McCain - 5

Anybody hoping for a game-changer tonight was probably disappointed.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Number 9 Show

Some people and things that are gone from me are missed. Most are not. Some days I think of often; most of them are from long ago. Thousands of days have been forgotten.

One of my favorite filmmakers, Luis Buñuel, wrote in his autobiography (I'm paraphrasing) that in his films he frequently used the moments, scenes that impressed him as a youth. If he'd seen something that stuck in his mind, so that he could still see a picture of it, he trusted that it was important.

Even if Buñuel didn't understand it he trusted the visual. So he'd find a way to use such a vision, whether it made any sense to his story or not.

That's the confidence an artist needs. He must trust his instincts. He should believe in the connections he makes, whether they seem to make sense right away, or not. In that way a painting comes alive as it is being created. It talks back to the artist who has the ears to listen.

In October of 1982, I signed on Color Radio live with the first Number 9 Show. The studio was over the Track Restaurant on Cary St. (For background on Color Radio, click here.) In April of 1984 the last of those three-hour programs was heard by my listeners, how ever many there were. In between those two dates, on Thursday afternoons, I played records in a free form style ... whatever popped into my mind.

Well, I sure do miss doing that.

By the way, one of the best at practicing a free-wheeling format in this town was Rick Stanley, also known as Eric E.

Before he died in 2003, Eric E's Sunday night Bee Bop Boogie and Blues Review was the best thing on the air in this town. I met and got to know Stanley in my Color Radio days. He, too, was one of the volunteer deejays.

So, with the help of YouTube here's a recreation of what one of those Number 9 Shows might have been like, without my introductions, which might be an improvement. The upside is that some of the visuals are worthwhile in these videos, but they have been chosen mostly for the sound.

If you click on the links in order, it will simulate a segment of the Number 9 Show, as it was 25 years ago.

One ... Two ... Three ... Four ... Five ... Six ... Seven ... Eight ... Nine.

Play safe .. stay cool.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Click on the video above to hear Lambchop, a band of a sort out of Nashville.

More Lambchop music here, here and here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Domestic Terror

When President George Bush launched his War on Terrorism, as a response to the 9/11 attacks, most Americans not only went along with it, they applauded. Since most Americans wanted to see the perpetrators and their backers identified and punished, going after them aggressively seemed to be the obvious thing to do, no matter what the operation was called.

Still, while not questioning the need to respond forcefully to the attacks, some of us criticized the president’s choice of words, saying things like, “War on terrorism? You can’t declare war on a tactic.”

Given the collective American mood, as bodies were being pulled out of smoking rubble and weaponized anthrax was being found in the mail, it’s easy to understand why most folks couldn’t have cared less about a nitpicking complaint over wording.

However, a year-and-a-half later, when the USA invaded Iraq under the War on Terror’s banner, it was a bogus operation. And, five years later, looking back on it, it’s obvious that more people should have not only questioned the pickled “intelligence” that justified the invasion, they should have asked a lot more questions.

The first question in March of 2003 should have been: “What the hell is a war on terror, anyway?

After all, the American revolutionaries were seen as terrorists by their British overlords. During World War II the Nazis saw the saboteurs of resistance movements in occupied countries as terrorists.

Following WWII, in 1946, Menachem Begin headed up the covert operation that blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. That bombing killed 91 people. Then, as prime minister of Israel, for signing a peace treaty with Egypt, Begin won the Nobel peace prize for 1978.

When Gov. Sarah Palin talks about the “domestic terrorist” -- Professor William “Bill” Ayers -- a man whose crimes were committed when she and Sen. Barack Obama were in grade school, she is cherry picking in a huge reach to tar the front-running Obama.

How worried is Palin about various cultural conservatives, heroes to the shameless, who have been associated with/given aid and comfort to doctor assassins and abortion clinic bombers? Segregationist bombers of churches?

This year, you don’t hear Palin or any other Republicans calling such twisted-religion crimes "domestic terrorism," do you?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Humes: Richmond mayoral race a 'snoozefest'

At RVANews, Pete Humes writes:

...In contrast, the Richmond mayoral race is not interesting at all. Not in the least. And that’s why I suggest that if the candidates really want to electrify this process they need to get people excited. Like the young folks say, they need to “kick it up a notch” and “get this party started.”

But that’s probably not going to happen if we leave it up to the candidates. So far, they’ve run a sleepy campaign that’s been free of outrageous accusations, dangerous smears, and extramarital sex. That can change. It should change. And we have the power to do it.

How? We spread change by spreading rumors. Juicy, vicious rumors.
Click here to catch up of Humes' view of local politics, "The Unrecognizable Truth."

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Obama coasts to debate win

In the second presidential debate the fading McCain needed a game-changer. He didn't get it.

Obama was more presidential; his unflappable steadiness looked good.

McCain didn't have answers that fit the reality of today; he seemed like a time refugee.

Obama's momentum is easy to feel. McCain's lack of it is impossible to ignore.

Payne: RDC endorsement of Jones violated by-laws

The Richmond Democratic Committee endorsement of Del. Dwight C. Jones for mayor is looking shaky, according to an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Eric Payne told a five-member Democratic party appeals panel tonight that he was not aware when the vote was taken on Sept. 25 that committee rules do not allow new business to be introduced at party meetings.

"That is my oversight," Payne told the review panel in a conference call that included representatives of four of the five mayoral campaigns. The call was open to the media.

Click here to read the news, as written by Michael Martz.

What will the RDC do next?

Moreover, will voters -- the Democratic party is powerful in Richmond -- see the move Jones forces made to garner the endorsement as too slick, or merely aggressive campaigning? And, will any of the four other candidates find a way to make this brouhaha work to boost their campaign?

Another dose of Bopst

The new Bopst Show, Episode No. 25, is here.

From Chris Bopst's MySpace Page, here is this week's play list:
The Bopst Show: “Hustler of Culture”

Podcast 25
Posted 10/06/08
Track Listing:

Sarah Palin on Katie Couric
Public Enemy: “Welcome to the Terrordome”
Tom Waits: “In the Colosseum”
Sarah Palin on Katie Couric
Les McCann & Eddie Harris: “Compared to What”
Negativland: “Time Zones”
The Eat: “Communist Radio”
The Might Diamonds: “Danger In Your Eyes”
Mel Brooks: “The Inquisition”
The Lefties Soul Connection: “Chop It”
The Fabulous Entourage: “The Way That It All Began”
Monotonix: “Summers & Autumns”
Charles Mingus: “Fabubus Fables”

Bopst Show Request Line: (804) 767-2550.

Mayoral candidates smile and talk points

Yesterday, the five guys who will be on the ballot in Richmond, running for mayor, appeared at St. Catherine's School to answer questions from students. My coverage of the forum staged in Richmond's tony Near West End is at
Asked about regional mass transportation, Robert J. Grey, Jr., claimed the counties will participate if we first "clean up City Hall." Councilman William J. "Bill" Pantele said he is "passionate about the issue."

Goldman summed up with, "Somebody’s got to pay for it, and right now there’s no money."

How would the five who would be mayor bring middle class families back into the city?

Jones said, "Improve the educational system."

Pantele disagreed with the premise of the question, "Richmond’s population has been growing."

That, while
Lawrence E. Williams talked about Arthur Ashe when he was a child. Then Williams added, "The baseball diamond will someday be Short Pump Central."

With no follow-ups allowed, those in the room who were slightly confused by that answer were left to wonder what Williams meant.

Click here to read the entire report/analysis.

Click here to read Lisa Crutchfield's reportage for the Richmond Times-Dispatch and to see a video with clips of the forum.

Charbeneau on culture and politics '08

"A House Divided"
by Travis Charbeneau

Never mind the issues, recent presidential elections have all degenerated around the "Culture Wars." Even now the McCain campaign has finally resorted to exploiting once again a looming threat of "the Other." Why does this old trick still work? Because the "threat" is real.

The Culture War probably began during the Renaissance, when science first butted heads with the Church. But the modern front opened with post-war "Beatnik" ferment over 50 years ago. The Beats brewed the "Hippie" stew of the Sixties for the huge Baby Boomer cohort, and nothing has been "the same" since.

Of course, "the same" -- the American Fifties -- is just what alienated non-conformist Beats from mainstream culture, creating Counter Culture v.1. By the time of Counter Culture v.2, perhaps 1965, Hippies were on their way to making the rejection of mainstream values their prime directive. By 1974, following the assassinations of the Kennedys and King, and the debacles of Vietnam and then Watergate, our two opposing cultures were locked in a permanent state of conflict. Every candidate since Nixon has played the demagogue with it.

Upset by ever more rapid change, mainstream culture longs for "the same" Golden Age we enjoyed under Eisenhower: a globe-dominating national security state built on cheap energy, credit card consumerism, the nuclear family, a traditional "Sky God," and unapologetic corporate conformity, racism and sexism.

CC v.3, the counterculture in midlife, consists of those Boomers who managed to spurn Yuppiedom and still "grow up," pay those orthodontia bills and save for the kids' education. These folks, and those of the X and Y generations who follow them, retain a sufficiently crucial level of idealism (or, if you will, naiveté) to dream still of progressive change: peace, civil rights, an accommodation with materialism and technology.

Add to this list a confrontation with new realities that diehards of "the same" ignored to the peril of all: Ike's forewarned "military-industrial complex," now in full power, nuclear terrorism, frightful environmental challenges, global economic competition, multiculturalism, expanded realities of "family," and technological challenges of a thousand stripes. The Culture Wars skirmish on all these fronts and reliably appear at every election, recently in nearly equal proportions.

Of course, the Great Mandate for all life on Earth is "change or die." Plants and animals, so far as we know, accept this without complaint. But, mainstream or countercultural, humans hate change. When it's "too much, too fast," we suffer from what futurist Alvin Toffler in 1970 termed "Future Shock."

It took centuries for us to accept a Universe that was not centered on the Earth. We still resist Darwin's 19th century assertion of a Universe that is not centered on man. And, by "we," I refer particularly to Americans, now unhappily bringing up the rear of post-industrial civilization. It is beyond ironic that America was once blamed for inventing modernism and inflicting Future Shock on the world! Feudal nations still hate us for it. And yet, where once we were leaders, Americans are now sliding backwards by nearly every measure.

The peculiar tone of America's Culture Wars provides the most likely reason. A current history would almost certainly show mainstream culture, despite howls of protest and doom, as having dominated the field in policy, even as the counterculture dominates pretty much everything else: the arts, media, academia, environmentalism, and, most important overall, the discomforting-but-necessary adaption to change.

Barack Obama is one amazing indicator that this evolution is still in motion. Longer term, if we get one, should prove that counterculturalists are no longer off-the-grid, penniless bohemians. The countercultural faithful possess not only whatever wealth they themselves have been able to save from pre-9/11 America, but legacy wealth from "The Greatest Generation," who profited most from the post-WW2 American hegemony. Old Hippies can still make a lot of mischief, including a "mainstreamed counterculture."

Alternately, already future-shocked Americans could become even more reactionary. Continuing Culture Wars fuel the seductiveness of "End Times," a traditional value which neatly resolves everything in obliteration. As H. G Wells said, "History is a race between education and catastrophe."

"The same" never is. Unless the culture at large shifts to managing, rather than denying change, it will be "End Times," as defined by actual time, not Revelations. Our divided house could fall from economic mismanagement, imperial overstretch, environmental decay, civil unrest, or as-yet-unforeseen disasters.

If the lights go out, counterculturalists will be able to say, as we did with Vietnam and Watergate, "we told you so." And, as with Vietnam and Watergate, there will be no satisfaction in the telling.

* * *

Ed. Note: Travis Charbeneau is a writer/musician living in Richmond, who occasionally contributed/contributes to SLANT (now SLANTblog). Click here to visit Charbeneau's MySpace Page. Click here to hear/see his steel guitar improvisation on the blues classic "St. James Infirmary" at YouTube.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

McCain and Palin 75 years ago

The Republican ticket of Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin can be seen through various prisms, depending on the point. For this little exercise I'm saying that Max Fleischer, creator of some of the best animated short subjects ever, anticipated both McCain and Palin with two of his best known characters, Popeye and Betty Boop.

Click on the YouTube video above for "Betty Boop for President," released in 1932 (note Betty's Palin-esque winking).

This next Betty Boop cartoon (1933) introduces Popeye to movie audiences. He was already a hit in comic strips -- click here. McCain's uncanny resemblance to Popeye the Sailor can't be denied.

For Betty Boop in "Minnie the Moocher" (with Cab Calloway music) -- click here.

For Betty Boop in "Ha Ha Ha" click here.

Here's Popeye in "Big Chief Ugh Amugh Ugh" -- click here.

And, Popeye in "Nix on Hypnotricks" -- click here.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Palin vs. Biden

The vice presidential debate went smoothly enough. No big gaffes. No big scores.

While Gov. Sarah Palin didn't worry about what the question was, she did a pretty good job of ducking them.

While Sen. Joe Biden didn't say much that was memorable, neither did he did say too much. Nonetheless, compared to his opponent, he was boring.

So, I have to say Palin won on style. Maybe Biden was better on substance. But in my instant take, while it was a almost a draw, I have to say Palin won the night. In a couple of days that analysis may look premature.

Still, I was surprised Palin did as well as she did. Mostly, Biden seemed to be trying to avoid a mistake -- in football, his tact would be called a "prevent defense."

Sarah thinks twice ... uh, oh!

Gov. Sarah Palin has got quite a job on her hands tonight. She must prove to America that she is not a ditsy fluke who should be dropped from the ticket. Still, given the withering coverage of her clueless interview with Katie Couric, yes, in a way, expectations are down.

But with her knowing Tina Fey is probably going to get huge laughs delivering some of her goofier lines from tonight's debate, verbatim, it has to be making Palin think twice.

If all she can do is come up with how Alaska is the closest state to Russia and lame jokes about Sen. Joe Biden's age, Palin's stock will drop lower than shares of Wachovia Bank.

Then there's this problem: For the Republican nominee for vice president, thinking twice might be once too many. Talk about expectations ... oy vey!

-- Words and art by F.T. Rea

Manipulative labels = propaganda

In the midst of the Cold War, left-right labels -- liberal and conservative -- made some sense. In the 1960s liberals were generally seen as being for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam. Conservatives stood for states rights and fought against communism.

Now, in the House of Representatives, with right-wing Republicans having combined with left-wing Democrats to stand in the way of a massive federal program designed to unclog credit streams -- favored by the establishment of both parties -- who is talking the liberal talk? Who is walking the conservative walk?

Is it fair or accurate for an opponent of the proposed “bailout,” or “rescue,” to call the bill a strategy that is out of the mainstream because it's too liberal, or too conservative?

Forty years ago, it was useful to see a left-to-right political spectrum. In those days, segregationists and hawks derisively called their most vocal opponents “pinkos.” Civil rights activists and doves didn’t mind calling their most hardcore opposites “fascists.”

Then the Berlin Wall crumbled.

In 1991 a radio news story described a political brouhaha in Russia between the ascending free-market style reformers and the old guard, the stubborn communists -- who were going out of style faster than a Leningrad minute.

No, make that a St. Petersburg minute.

The report labeled those clinging to the Soviet system as “conservatives” and those in the process of sweeping them out of power as “liberals.” Yet, when considered in light of the familiar Western view of matters political -- capitalists on the right vs. socialists on the left -- the role reversal of this situation’s fresh context was striking and amusing.

President George W. Bush used the tag “compassionate conservative” in the 2000 election. But in 2008 Bush’s steering of the nation’s economy, his unprecedented accumulation of debt, have hardly been conservative in the traditional sense. Nor has Bush’s swaggering, go-it-alone foreign policy been in the least bit prudent or, ahem, conservative.

So, it has turned out that the term “compassionate conservative” was simply what used to be called “double-talk.”

Now we have a black man running for president, who personifies the progress this country has made in its struggle to overcome racism. Times have changed.

Today’s political issues divide along many lines. There are urban vs. suburban arguments. There are differences that split generations, classes, lifestyles and you-name-it. Trying always to frame such issues within a ideological context tortures the truth.

Worrying about whether the Republican, Sen. John McCain, is conservative enough, or whether the Democrat, Sen. Barack Obama, is too liberal, is a waste of time. It simply doesn't matter very much.

From where I'm sitting, here's what it looks like a smart voter should be considering: Which presidential candidate seems to better understand the daunting problems he would face as president? Which candidate appears to have the better plans to solve/cope with those problems? Which candidate is the better leader for our time? Not for some other time. Our time.

And, speaking of our time and its peculiar economic vexations, as a lawyer friend of mine said, “Whoever named it a 'bailout' didn’t do its chances of passing much good.”

So, once again, we see labels working to shape perception. Is it conservative or liberal to hand over $700 billion to an administration who spokespersons have been telling us for the last year the nation's economy is "vibrant and flexible" and "our banks are strong"?

In this election year, the wise voter will brush aside the manipulative labels and remember that neither conservatives nor liberals have ever had an exclusive on two considerations that always matter more than convenient labels -- honesty and competence.