Tuesday, September 30, 2008

STYLE's look at mayoral candidates

STYLE Weekly's cover story -- "5 Men. 35 Days" -- profiles the five mayoral candidates in Richmond.

Click here to read the five-part story.

Oliphant on Palin's prepping

Of the political cartoonists out there today, Pat Oliphant is at the top of the heap. In his 'toon above (click on it to enlarge) he totally captures the essence of the three characters -- Bush, Palin and McCain -- who appear in the frame, and he does it with so little detail.

Pat Oliphant, the closest thing to Honoré Daumier today, deserves to be considered among the best ever.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Baseball Issue

Thought to be dead and buried, the crazy idea of building a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom walked like a zombie though news stories during the past week.

In a squirrelly move that should surprise no one, Mayor Doug Wilder reversed himself, once again, and opened the door to the notion of building a new home in The Bottom for the Richmond Whatevers to play in the Who Knows? league.

Last week the five mayoral candidates were asked about baseball at a public forum. While none of them showed much enthusiasm for building in any area other than where the Diamond is now located, three of the them appeared to rule out other parts of town. They were: Paul Goldman; Bill Pantele; Lawrence Williams.

Which means Robert Grey and Dwight Jones are still willing to consider building somewhere other than where the Master Plan says a baseball stadium should be.

This is an election-year political issue that should concern voters in all nine of Richmond’s voting districts, as well as citizens of the region, in general. Much has been and should be said against the baseball-in-the-Bottom push. In this post I will confine my effort to two points:

1. Most of the proponents of building a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom seem to have been focused on the development aspect, when they have tried to sell it to the public. Visions of suburban shoppers, tourists and bar-hoppers throwing money at retailers all around the stadium have been painted.

They have sounded like people in love with a design. People who want to see their plan carried out, come hell or, ahem, high water. They haven't seemed much phased by the problems such a shoe-horned-in development and its heavy traffic would visit upon the homes and businesses surrounding it.

Moreover, they have not sounded like people who care enough about the general welfare of Richmond's residents; nor have they sounded like planners who know much about baseball and its fans.

A person who’s been going to Richmond Braves games, over the years, knows who else goes to games. So, I can tell you that mixed in with plenty of fair-weather fans, there are lots of regulars. There are always veterans, some in wheelchairs. There are always kids dressed in their Little League uniforms. There are always neighborhood and church groups. Lots of families.

In my view, at least half of any R-Braves crowd would not be happy attending a game in Shockoe Bottom, given its ambiance. If I’m right, you’d have to replace those fans with a lot of new fans. Fans who will come to 20, 25 games a season.

As a longtime baseball fan, I have to say I wouldn’t bet a nickel it can be done. Given how much Big League baseball in available on television, and how many entertainment options there are these days, Minor League baseball is a tough sell. To bet taxpayers’ money, large money, on a baseball stadium in a part of town a lot of baseball fans are probably scared to visit is crazy.

2. If the deal that builds a new baseball stadium includes public money to finance the construction, then it makes all the sense in the world for Richmond and its regional partners -- the counties of Henrico, Chesterfield, and perhaps Hanover -- to decide where it should be.

It’s pie in the sky to continue to dream that a private developer is going to come in and drop a new stadium on Richmond.

On top of that, I think the majority of baseball fans who went to R-Braves games at the Diamond would vote against moving professional baseball to Shockoe Bottom.

Whether Richmond needs a new stadium, at all, is something to reconsider. In the current business climate, I’m not at all sure most Richmonders believe committing to spending a lot of money on baseball makes sense.

The old idea of sprucing up the Diamond is making more and more sense. Knock down the crumbling superstructure, build more modestly around the field that’s already there, etc.

-- Words and photo by F. T. Rea

Bopst No. 24

Here's the link to Chris Bopst's weekly radio/podcast hour.

I just read his intro (see excerpt below) to the Bopst Show Episode 24. It did a good job of making me want to click "Listen."

Everything that I feel about the world is based on my love of music. While other people look to religion for spiritual or moral guidance, I turn to my record collection. And it’s there that I always find the face of God.

I have no doubt that this might sound a little silly to some people. Music is merely an entertainment option to them, a means to enable a good time and nothing else. To me, that thinking belittles the redemptive power of sound. While I certainly enjoy musical a compliment in the shallow end of the pool, I seek out music the most for guidance in the deep end of life’s headier realms. And it works both ways. Sometimes AC/DC is the perfect antidote to cure existential angst; sometimes it’s Stravinsky or maybe Lee Perry. I’ve found that cranking MDC’s, “Millions of Dead Cops” cures a Sarah Palin-induced rage and that Nina Simone’s cover of the Ike & Tina Turner classic, “Funkier Than A Mosquito’s Tweeter” is the perfect theme song for John McCain. If I’m feeling down in the dumps, the soothing sounds of Perrey & Kingsley or the Beau Hunks always brings me back to the good life. Of all the creative expressions, music is the most malleable and immediate in its ability to affect either the individual or a group’s mood. It has the ability to convey true emotional impact though the arrangement of notes.

And at it’s best, music can affect social and political change.

Now I'm going to hear to what Bopst has to offer this week.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Webb's criteria for bailout plan

From Jessica Smith in Sen. Webb's office:
At 11 a.m. today, Sen. Jim Webb and eight additional Democratic Senators -- Harkin, (Bill) Nelson, (Ben) Nelson, Lincoln, Boxer, Feinstein, Salazar, and Klobuchar -- sent the attached letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seeking assurances that any agreement being negotiated contain specific provisions to protect taxpayers and our financial system.

The provisions include: (1) a new regulatory structure to protect our financial system against further instability; (2) releasing of funds to the Treasury in installments to ensure proper implementation and accountability; (3) a clearly specified limit on executive compensation in rescued companies; (4) ensuring that taxpayers are protected against loss and share in any possible gains; and (5) a restriction on financial assistance to foreign banks and institutions.

Webb said this morning: “This issue transcends party politics, going to the concerns that every single American holds for a secure financial future. Those of us who have not been among the small group of negotiators have a duty to communicate clearly both our concerns and our expectations as the process moves forward. The markets should know that we want to reach a consensus expeditiously, but with a plan that protects the economy, gives a potential boost to the American taxpayer and brings accountability to those who got us in to this crisis.”

-- Photo by F.T. Rea

Thursday, September 25, 2008

McCain coming unglued?

Yesterday afternoon, the story broke that Sen. John McCain had suddenly decided to "suspend" his campaign, so he could rush to DeeCee to work on bailout legislation negotiations. On top of that McCain threatened to drop out of the presidential debate, scheduled for Friday in Oxford, Mississippi.

My first reaction was that McCain was pulling a bizarre stunt that would doom his already fading chances to win the election.

After seeing what has happened today, I am more sure of it than I was yesterday. Since I am for Sen. Barack Obama, I'm not only happy to see McCain self-destruct, but I remain amazed -- wow! -- that he has chosen to play his cards the way he has.

On top of that, McCain's canceling out on Dave Letterman's show, and Dave's bitter but funny reaction, will be remembered for a long time.

How is any of this making voters feel confident in McCain's ability to make good decisions? After picking Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, and "suspending" his campaign to attend a photo op at the White House, what will the obviously desperate McCain do next?

Although I have admired McCain for several good reasons for a long time, even though these developments are helping Obama, it's sad to see McCain acting like an cranky old man, who is coming unglued.

Update: McCain has reversed himself, yet again. Without a bailout agreement in place, he has decided he will debate.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a McCain supporter, said the Republican made a "huge mistake" by even discussing canceling the debate.

"You can't just say, 'World, stop for a moment. I'm going to cancel everything,'" Huckabee told reporters Thursday night in Alabama before attending a benefit for the University of Mobile. He said it's more important for voters to hear from the presidential candidates than for them to huddle with fellow senators in Washington.

Both McCain and Obama had returned to Washington on Thursday at the urging of President Bush, who invited them to a meeting with congressional leaders at the White House. But a session aimed at showing unity in resolving the financial crisis broke up with conflicts in plain view.

McCain's campaign said the meeting "devolved into a contentious shouting match" and implied Obama was at fault — on a day when McCain said he was putting politics aside to focus on the nation's financial problems.

Click here to read the AP story.

Calling all blogger endorsements for mayor

The first time I was asked if SLANTblog was endorsing a candidate I laughed. That was three or for years ago. I don't remember which race it was. But it struck me as funny that someone -- a partisan blogger -- was gathering a list of blogs that had endorsed his candidate.

Newspapers endorse, I told the guy. My thinking then was that it was silly to pretend that an endorsement from SLANTblog, or any other blog, would mean anything.

That was then.

Since then much has happened. And, the importance of blogs, political blogs, has grown far beyond what most people would have guessed four years ago.

Now I want to compile a list of local blogger endorsements for Richmond's mayoral race. There are five candidates: Paul Goldman; Robert Grey; Dwight Jones; Bill Pantele; Lawrence Williams.

If you publish a blog that is listed at RVABlogs, including community news blogs, I want to know which of the five candidates you are endorsing.

So, I'll try to watch for endorsement posts, but the best way for me to know about your mayoral preference would be for you to use the comment option for this post. If you prefer, send it to me by email.

Eventually, I'll write a piece on the contest to replace Mayor Doug Wilder that will use the information gathered by this process. By the way, SLANTblog has not endorsed a candidate yet.

Update: To my fellow bloggers, my two main reasons for not endorsing a mayoral candidate are pretty good.

1. So far, I haven't decided which one I will vote for.

2. I'm covering the local elections, including the mayoral race, for Richmond.com. So, my effectiveness in that role could be hobbled if I declare that I am backing one of the candidates.

Mayoral Debate Report

My take on the mayoral forum/debate staged on Tuesday night is up at Richmond.com.
The five hopefuls stood behind podiums in a second floor ballroom that comfortably swallowed up the 300 to 350 people who came to see what the men running for mayor looked like under fire, and to hear what they had to say.

The topic for the night’s talk-fest was billed as
The Future of Downtown.

After opening statements, the candidates were questioned by a trio of rather mild mannered inquisitors, seated stage left: Ed Slipek (
Style Weekly); Jimmy Barrett (1140 WRVA); Aaron Gilchrist (NBC12).

In his opening statement, Paul Goldman tossed off a couple of red meat campaign promises to the audience, “There will be no baseball stadium downtown. There will be no Echo Harbor project, either.”
Click here to read the entire piece.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bush: Be afraid

It seems the financial crisis message from Dubya, the semi-authentic cowboy, has a familiar ring. It's the same message he had after 9/11 and during the run-up to the war in Iraq.

President Bush's address to the nation tonight restated that message: Be afraid ... be very afraid.

-- art and words by F.T. Rea

McCain wants out of the debate

With President Bush set to address the nation tonight, suddenly Sen. John McCain wants to back out of the debate scheduled for Friday. His says he will suspend his campaign on Thursday morning.

McCain's story is that he wants to return to Washington to focus on solving the financial crisis.

Maybe.

But what I see is that McCain's campaign is in a free-fall. The notion of facing his opponent this week, when he is totally unprepared to do so, has withered McCain's courage to stand next to Sen. Barack Obama and answer questions about the economy or Iraq, or anything else.

Maybe this is statesmanship. Maybe this is something else, altogether.

If McCain wants to be in DeeCee, fine, hold the debate there. Move it out of Mississippi. Hold the debate in a hall on George Washington University's campus. It can be done. Such a thing could be thrown together in hours.

But if McCain simply wants to run away from a fight, a debate his advisers are telling him he would surely lose, well, wrapping himself in the flag of saving Wall St. isn't going to fool many fair-minded voters.

7th District candidates

A profile of the 7th District in Richmond and the candidates running in that district is up at Richmond.com.
Among the other important races on the ballot this time around are two that will determine who will follow a couple of Virginia’s superstar politicians, Sen. John Warner (who is retiring) and Mayor Doug Wilder (who will surely keep us guessing about what his next gig will be).

The densely populated 7th District contains the most eastern parts of Richmond; it is bounded to the north, east and somewhat to the south by Henrico County. The district does not cross the James River, also to the south. Neighborhoods in the 7th include: Fairfield, Church Hill, Fulton Bottom, Fulton Hill, Montrose Heights and the eastern portion of Shockoe Bottom.

Within the 7th District are Jefferson Hill Park, Libby Hill Park, Chimborazo Park, Gillies Creek Park, Powhatan Hill Park, Tobacco Row, the Edgar Allen Poe Museum and St. John’s Church, where Patrick Henry gave his “Give me liberty, or give me death” speech in 1775.
Click here to read the entire article, written by yours truly.

RVANews on the mayoral forum

RVANews covered the mayoral forum/debate at the Renaissance Conference Center last night, which was sponsored by STYLE Weekly and the League of Women Voters, plus three other groups.

Seated left-to-right at the VIP bloggers table were Ross Catrow (RVANews), John Sarvay (Buttermilk & Molasses) and Tobacco Avenue's Jeff Kelley.

To read what these cats wrote about the five candidates and whatever, in realtime, reacting to what was said in the room, click here.

Updates:

"Richmond's Next Mayor: A Quorum at the Forum" (at Buttermilk & Molasses) -- click here.

"The Men Who Would Be Mayor" (at Read, Drink, & Be Merry) -- click here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Another White House power grab?

Nine months into his first year in office as president, George Bush presided over an effort to use a calamity to grab more power. Whatever else his response to the 9/11 attacks on the USA was, the Patriot Act and other such measures were surely part of an expansion of the power the White House wields.

Now it appears history is in the process of repeating itself. A calamity on Wall St. has provided President Bush with an opportunity of grabbing more power for the executive branch of government, all in the name of a bailout that will save America's financial markets from ruin.

This most recent move comes in the last three months of the Bush presidency.

If the Democrats question or resist Bush's newest plans -- which some might see as corporate welfare -- it seems that once again they will be branded by the White House as unpatriotic, or the players of partisan politics.

Will Democrats cave in yet again? Will Sen. Barack Obama fall for the ruse? Will Obama be cowed by White House bluster, or will he lower the boom on Bush and McCain at Friday's debate?

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The 6th District at a glance

A profile of Richmond's 6th District and its candidates is up at Richmond.com. It was written by your truly.

The salamander-shaped 6th District stretches from Highland Park and Barton Heights in North Richmond, through parts of Downtown, including the Richmond Coliseum and Shockoe Slip.

Then it crosses the James River to Blackwell, and runs all the way down the Commerce Road industrial corridor to the southern-most part of Richmond. Both the VCU Medical Center (MCV) campus and Deepwater Terminal are within the district.

No other district is so far-flung. Yet, with all that geography there are only two schools in the 6th -- Overby-Sheppard Elementary and Martin Luther King Middle. At the City of Richmond’s web site the 6th is called the “Gateway.”

Evidence gathered by the 2000 census points at the most significant problem many residents in the 6th face every day -- poverty. To support that observation, the percentage of female householders, with no spouse and related children under the age of 18, is 31 percent. That’s the highest of any district and over twice the citywide average.

Click here to read the entire article.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Carytown Monkey

Carytown Monkey, in his suit of clothes
Carytown Monkey, bite you on the nose
Carytown Monkey, goes to midnight shows
But where is he now?
Nobody knows

Barbara Johns in bronze, at Capitol Square
Doug didn't see her, 'cause he won't there
Civil Rights heroes, the mayor don't care
Where was he then?
Nobody knows

Carytown Monkey, in the blogosphere
Carytown Monkey, just ordered a beer
Carytown Monkey, now he's out of here
So where is he now?
Nobody knows


-- Words and tune by F.T. Rea

Situational Conservatives on Medical Marijuana

As friend of mine is undergoing chemotherapy, I have been reminded of this piece I wrote in 2001 for Richmond.com.

*

On May 14, 2001, a 31-year-old federal law – the Controlled Substances Act – trumped California's state laws allowing for the supply of medical marijuana. The U.S. Supreme Court found in favor of the federal government and against the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative.


The news was cheered by characters who had long extolled the virtue of minimizing federal interference in the affairs of the 50 states. But since these rather less-than-compassionate conservatives have consistently seemed happy to defer to Uncle Sam on certain issues – especially on personal and medical matters – perhaps it would it be more appropriate to call these squirrelly states-rights advocates "situational conservatives."

It seems many who are still opposed to medical marijuana only see another battle line in their perpetual cultural warfare against anything they connect to the "permissiveness" of the '60s. Rather than noting the heartbreaking need of a cancer patient, these partisans are only concerned with what message recognizing the legitimacy of medical marijuana could send. They see it as a slippery slope toward legalization.

Of course, the news from the highest court was not applauded in all circles. The unlucky folks who were more likely to be denied access to relief from their chemotherapy-related nausea probably weren't cheering the Supreme Court's so-called wisdom.

More than 20 years ago, I witnessed a scene that comes into my mind every time this topic comes up. The unusual transaction took place in an old friend's carriage house art studio.

As planned, I showed up at about 5:15 p.m. to give my teammate a ride to a softball game scheduled to start at 6 p.m. As it turned out, we had to wait for his brother to stop by to score some pot.

Although he was a regular consumer, my friend was not ordinarily a dealer in such commodities. On top of that, the artist's older brother was a buttoned-down lawyer who had never smoked pot in his life. So, on the face of it, the situation seemed odd.

The artist explained that his brother had asked him to buy the pot for a senior partner at his law firm. The partner wanted it for a client of his who had an advanced form of cancer. Apparently the patient, a retired judge, had been told by his doctor that smoking marijuana might help. The doctor indicated he wasn't in a position to help with actually obtaining the contraband. As the story went, the judge asked his friend and personal attorney for some discreet help with the matter.

Moments later, the blue-suited lawyer arrived. As he accepted the parcel – a brown paper bag containing a plastic bag filled with two ounces of primo weed – the lawyer laughed nervously and said toward me, "I suppose he told you what's going on?"

Indicating I was aware of the circumstances, I asked about something that had just occurred to me: Would this old judge know what to do with the stuff in order to smoke it? Did he know to remove the seeds and stems? Did he have a pipe, or know how to roll a joint?

The lawyer was stumped. But he admitted it was likely the judge would not know how to handle it. He chuckled and said this particular man was about as old-fashioned and straight-laced as they come.

"Good point," said the artist, pulling out a tablet of drawing paper.

Then he started to create a set of written instructions, with simple pen-and-ink drawings to illustrate each step. As the guide was put together – it made us late for the softball game – the three of us polished off half a six pack of cold beer and talked about the bizarre situation.

Finishing his mission of mercy, the artist had a few words for his always-cautious brother. In essence, my friend said – "Here's this old judge, who would have been happy to throw any of us in jail yesterday for possession of this same bag. Now the judge is in a jam. His doctor can't help him. Neither can his preacher. No, in his darkest hour of need, the judge has to turn to the only Good Samaritan available, an unrepentant hippie willing to break the law out of kindness for a stranger in need."

Then my friend threw a pack of rolling papers into the bag, so the novice pot-smoker would have what he needed to get started.

Since the Controlled Substances Act does not allow for an exception for "medical necessity," the Supreme Court basically threw up its hands and said it could find no way to protect California's suppliers of medical marijuana from federal prosecution.

Hey, if the patient says it helps and his doctor says it helps, why isn't that good enough? For humanitarian reasons, the argument of whether to allow for obtaining marijuana for doctor-authorized treatment simply must be separated from strategies for, or against, legalizing marijuana across the board.

Congress needs to sweep away the cobwebs and take a hard look at amending its Controlled Substances Act. Much has been learned about these matters since 1970. Naïve as it might sound, I'd still like to believe there's a difference between being conservative and being cruel.

VPAP on the money

The Virginia Public Access Project provides sunlight into the war chests political candidates amass in their pursuit of winning elections. And, the candidates have just filed new reports.

So, among the local candidates, to see who has what money, AND who donated it, click here.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Kraftwerk covers


Kraftwerk was one of my favorite bands of the late-'70s/early-'80s time. Their music had both a keen sense of what was a worthwhile riff and a droll sense of humor. Devo, another of my faves of this era, was obviously influenced by Kraftwerk.

This post will offer a few YouTube listens to their music, with early videos that played as short subjects in European movie theaters. Click on the video window above for "Radioactivity." I saw Kraftwerk perform this song and others live at the Warner Theatre in DeeCee. Click on the links below for more of Kraftwerk's music at YouTube:

"The Robots"; "Pocket Calculator"; "Neon Lights"; "Trans-Europe Express".

Then there's the reason for this post. The next link is to Senior Coconut's cover of "Showroom Dummies," originally done by Kraftwerk. Click here for that. And, click here for the same group's South-of-the-Border version of "Neon Lights". This stuff is just fun.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Barr: War on Drugs should end

Now that Bob Barr has been converted into a Libertarian, he's had a change of heart about the War on Drugs, which was launched in 1972 by President Richard Nixon and has been an abysmal failure ever since. In "Federal Drug War Rethought" at the Huffington Post Barr writes:
As both a U.S. Attorney and Member of Congress, I defended drug prohibition. But it has become increasingly clear to me, after much study, that our current strategy has not worked and will not work. The other candidates for president prefer not to address this issue, but ignoring the failure of existing policy exhibits both a poverty of thought and an absence of political courage. The federal government must turn the decision on drug policy back to the states and the citizens themselves.

My change in perspective might shock some people, but leadership requires a willingness to assess evidence and recognize when a strategy is not working. We are paying far too high a price for today's failed policy to continue it simply because it has always been done that way.

Talk about seeing the light!

Click here to read this astonishing piece by the former Republican congressman from Georgia who is running for president on the Libertarian ticket.

-- H/T to Jackie

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Who's doing the push-polling?

In a report about yesterday's mayoral candidates forum at the posh Bull & Bear Club downtown, Will Jones writes for the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Speaking to the Metropolitan Richmond Women's Bar Association, Paul Goldman had twice mentioned a recent poll purportedly conducted by the campaign of City Council President William J. Pantele. The poll was the subject of a recent blog post, with the author speculating whether it was a "push poll," a controversial tactic sometimes used to lead voters toward or away from a candidate or an issue.

Goldman, a lawyer and political consultant, challenged Pantele to release the questions and "show us that blog is not right." He added, "We shouldn't be asking personal questions about anybody up here."

Pantele did not respond. After the forum, however, his campaign manager, Craig Bieber, angrily accused Goldman of dirty politics.

At the time, Goldman was telling a Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter that he was not suggesting the poll was a push poll, just asking the question raised by the blog, Read Drink and Be Merry.

Click here to read the entire piece at inRich.

Click here to read Bookstore Piet's post about push-polling at Read, Drink, & Be Merry.

Click here to see a WWBT12 video report on the forum.

Robert Grey interviewed

An interview with mayoral candidate Robert Grey is up at Richmond.com. The piece was penned by yours truly.

As it stands now, the two candidates that haven’t raised much money, Paul Goldman and Lawrence Williams, are battling the perception they simply can’t win. And, the three candidates who have amassed large war chests must overcome perceptions they are somehow tainted by their connections, however tenuous, to various longstanding squabbles.

Of the five, Robert Grey is seen by some observers as the most connected to Wilder. Whether it’s true or not, obviously, that’s a knife that could cut either way with voters.

Click here to read the rest of the introduction and the interview itself.

Evil's Second Coming

Note: The reaction to 9/11 piece below was originally published by STYLE Weekly on May 15, 2002. It was written by yours truly.

Washing in on what poet William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) might have called a “blood-dimmed tide,” the specter of evil suddenly emerged from the periphery of modern life eight months ago. In the blue skies of the time before 9/11’s sucker punch, the notion of pure evil had an Old World air about it. Absolutes, such as good and evil, had no seat at the table of postmodern thinking.

After 9/11, a generation of Americans suddenly learned a bitter lesson: Evil never went away. It had gone out of style, as a concept, only because times were so easy. Living in a land of plenty, it had gotten to be a pleasant habit to avert our eyes from evil-doings in lands of want.

The last American president to get much mileage out of the word evil was probably Ronald Reagan, with his “evil empire” characterization of the USSR and its sphere of influence. Now, 20 years later, we have a president who sees “an axis of evil” — an alleged phenomenon that puzzles most of the world’s leaders, or so they say.

George W. Bush apparently has little use for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s stalwart advice to a nation in need of a boost in confidence — “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Instead, Bush chooses to color-code fear rather than urge his people to rise above it.

The propagandists of the Bush administration have been successful in cultivating the public’s anxiety since September. Whether that’s been done for our own good remains to be seen. Perhaps it has, but this much is clear now — all the official danger alerts about nuclear power plants, bridges and crop-dusters have been effective in keeping most of the natural questioning of the administration’s moves at bay.

To hear Attorney General John Ashcroft tell it, the architects of 9/11 are the personification of the most virulent form of evil ever known. Although much of the evidence that would establish his absolute guilt in connection with 9/11 remains a state secret, Osama bin Laden is said to have shot to the top of the chart. Forget about Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Idi Amin and Pol Pot. They were amateurs.

Then again, evil, like beauty, has always been in the eye of the beholder.

Wasn’t it evil to deliberately dump tons of potent pesticide into the James River during the ’70s to make a greedy buck? Once it was in Virginia’s water, it turned out that kepone wasn’t much different from a bio-terror agent in the same water.

Although it was first reported that the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people was likely to have been the work of Middle Eastern terrorists, such wild speculation soon fizzled in the face of the facts.

With the news seeping out of the cloisters about child-molesting priests and the Catholic Church’s systematic cover-ups, whose betrayal was more evil, the molester or the higher-ups who hid and facilitated his crimes?

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

None of this is to suggest that al Qaida shouldn’t be put out of business. It isn’t to say that knocking the Taliban off was a bad idea. There’s no question here about whether the United States should protect itself from the networks of organized terror that are hell-bent on destroying the modern world.

Still, today’s evil is the same evil our forefathers faced in their wars. Evil hasn’t changed; technology has. With modern weapons in their hands, the fanatics of the world have the potential to wreak havoc like never before.

What has changed is the extent to which the hate festering in the souls of the world’s would-be poobahs and their sociopathic minions has become weaponized.

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

So another question arises, who is more dangerous to civilization, the guys who spent their treasure to weaponize germs, or the guys who want to steal the stuff and use it on somebody?

Decades ago this was a concern expressed by some in the disarmament movement. Its scary what-if scenarios always included the likelihood that the super powers would eventually lose track of some of their exotic weapons. Looking back on it now, it seems obvious that there was no way any government could keep all that material locked away from the greed and hate of determined free-lancers.

A man with a briefcase-style nuclear device may be no more evil than a man armed with a knife. Either danger could kill you just as dead. Those of us who feel connected to others know which one we should fear the most.

The “rough beast” of dreadful evil “slouching towards” us is traveling on the back of technology of our own making. While we watch out for organized terrorists in the short run, with a handy color code to guide us, it’s time to think more seriously about how to get rid of a lot of very dangerous weapons in the long run.

-- 30 --

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Apologies Upon Demand

Lipstick on your collar told a tale on you
Lipstick on your collar said you were untrue

-- From the 1959 Connie Francis hit song
Lyrics by Edna Lewis, tune by George Goehring


At the recent Republican convention, Gov. Sarah Palin conjured up an image of a dog wearing lipstick -- specifically a pit bull -- and she got a big laugh from the rapt crowd on the hall’s floor. No doubt, her hockey mom joke went over well with many Republicans watching her on television for the first time, ever.

About a week later Sen. Barack Obama used an old joke about putting lipstick on a pig, a joke that’s been walked around the block by many a politician -- including Sen. John McCain -- and ever since, Republicans have been foaming at the mouth with outrage.

Putting “lipstick on a pig” has been turned into a sexist slur for partisans with a flair for feigning a temper tantrum. Republican propagandists have been twisting themselves into absurd contortions to strike the pretender’s pose that they are actually serious in their outrage over Obama supposedly calling Palin a pig.

Of course, a week ago way too many Democratic propagandists were focused on whether Palin’s fifth child is actually hers. And, on whether or not she’s been a good parent, if her unmarried daughter is pregnant. So, in order for the silly Republicans to walk the low road this week, the silly Democrats had to step aside because they had temporarily run out of new mud to sling at Palin.

It seems the Republican strategy this season is to get angry at all questions of their nominees’ worthiness to win the White House. Any attacks on McCain are out of line, because he spent five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war. Ask him how many houses he has, he squawks back that he spent five-and-a-half years...

Sometimes at the convention, it seemed McCain was being beatified for sainthood, rather nominated to run for president.

Similarly, so far, any attack on Palin has been called “sexist” by her defenders. Republicans seem to believe they can win over some goodly percentage of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s disappointed supporters using a victimhood strategy.

So, should PUMAs be outraged because it’s an insult to them that someone would think they’d vote for a woman, in spite of how much they disagree with her, just because she’s a female?

Yes, this season we can expect the political landscape to be littered with demands for apologies from the deeply offended. It seems the surest way to create a news event out of thin air is to call upon a politician, especially a campaigning politician, to apologize.

Typically, a planted outrage story goes through its predictable cycle, which usually plays out something like this:

The Demander: Sir, I demand an apology. When you said, “War is hell,” you demeaned every single young American in uniform today, particularly those serving on the Iraqi battlefield of this nation’s War on Terror. You were saying they’ve gone to hell, which is to say they do not deserve to go to heaven. Who are you to judge?

The Offender: What in heaven’s name are you talking about? “War is hell,” is a quote from General William Tecumseh Sherman.

The Demander: That’s your opinion.

The Offender: OK. I regret accidentally offending anyone who agrees with you, if it is actually true that they were offended.

The Demander: If? I demand you apologize for issuing an insulting apology, and I also call upon you to apologize to Maria Shriver and Caroline Kennedy.

The Offender: What have they got to do with this?

The Demander: When you say “war is hell” it has to remind them of the assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, because that was the title of the war movie he slipped into a Dallas theater to see, after he alone shot President Kennedy. Why do you hate poor Maria and the rest of the Kennedy family?

The Offender: How about I just hate Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movies?

The Demander: Your un-apology apologies reek of sarcasm, which is outrageously disrespectful of our troops in Iraq, and brave Vietnam War era veterans such as President Bush.

The Offender: Does saying, “war is the h-word,” make it any better? How about “war is heck?”

The Demander: The hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers” should convince you that saying war is hell, while we are engaged in righteous war against heathen terrorists is tantamount to blasphemous treason.

The Offender: How about I say “war is so dangerous it can be hell-like?”

The Demander: You’d be emboldening the enemy.

The Offender: To hell with the enemy!

The Demander: Better.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Sarvay's mayoral preference poll

At Buttermilk & Molasses publisher John Sarvay has a mayoral preference poll running. Click here to look at the results, so far, and to vote.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Rent's due ... art for sale

Trying to scare up the money to pay rent. Yes, the wolf is at the door, so some of my art is for sale cheap. And, if you want me to make something new, to your specs, I'm ready and willing.

The piece above is going for just $90. Click here to see the rest of the stuff I have posted scans of. Plus, I'll be adding more images soon, so check back in.

Contact me at (804) 359-4864 or ftrea9@yahoo.com.
--Art by F.T. Rea

Sarah Pawlenty?


The Republicans are defending her. Democrats are attacking her. The blogosphere is bubbling over. And, until last Friday, Gov. Sarah Palin was mostly an unknown outside of her state of Alaska.

To underline that point click on the YouTube video from last night's Republican convention (it only lasts 11 seconds).

As far as the partisan defenses and attacks have gone, it seems the shamelessness has been spread around pretty evenly. Apparently, Alaska's governor inspires a fierce loyalty, or the opposite, in spite of the fact many of those with the strong feelings know little or nothing about her.

Tonight, Sarah Pawlenty, er, ah, make that Sarah Palin, yes, Palin, will address the convention and a worldwide television audience to introduce herself. With the way this has gone, so far, I suspect her speech will draw a large viewing audience that is curious as all get-out about this 44-year-old woman who wants to be our next vice president.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

R-Braves say thanks and goodbye

The R-Braves won their last game, ever, at the Diamond: Richmond 9, Norfolk 3. A report on that game and the sell-out atmosphere at yesterday afternoon's baseball game, penned by yours truly, is at Richmond.com.

After the game some of the former Braves players came onto the infield to unfurl a banner for the fans to see."Thanks for the memories," it said.


Many fans lingered as the shadows lengthened, clearly not wanting the day at the ballpark to end. Kids crowded up the fence just behind the Braves dugout, hoping to pick up souvenir bats or balls. A few of them were rewarded. Invited guests posed in groups on the field for pictures.

The Diamond’s giant sound system switched from its usual peppy pop music to "Auld Lang Syne."

Click here to read the story.