Thursday, May 28, 2009

Democratic hopefuls in the movies

The three-way Democratic gubernatorial primary race is an interesting study in contrasts. Not so much contrast in the way of issues and positions, but rather a sharp contrast in styles.

And, of course that means this post is a big reach toward film references in an effort to be entertaining. And, ah-wa-a-ay we go:

Terry McAuliffe is Burt Lancaster in "Elmer Gantry." He's over-the-top on the enthusiasm; charming but worrisome. Why has Terry never taken much interest in Virginia politics before this campaign?

Creigh Deeds is James Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Sincerity is his strong suit; in that he is not unlike Sen. Jim Webb. But is he as tough and cunning as Webb?

Brian Moran is Van Johnson in "Caine Mutiny." He's a loyal, capable guy and he means well; not the sharpest tool in the box. Is anybody really all that excited about Moran at the top of the ticket?

So, what actor in what role would Bob McDonnell be?

The Mighty Bostic whiffs

At Richmond BizSense Al Harris reports that the arrangement to buy the Connecticut Defenders by Bryan Bostic's group, Richmond Baseball Club, has come unraveled. A public relations spokesman for the group admits the deadline for sealing it all up before June 1 cannot be met.
Local media has reported the investor group led by businessman Bryan Bostic is short of the estimated $15 million needed to buy the team. News broke this week that [Nolan] Ryan’s company, co-founded with former Houston Astros owner Don Sanders, is considering potential ownership of the franchise and possibly investing in the ballpark planned for Shockoe Center.
Click here to read the entire post.

Boy! A lot can change in a couple of weeks. What was being sold as inevitability on May 12, at the Richmond Times-Dispatch's Public Square forum, has turned out to be just talk.

Let's hope Nolan Ryan is smart enough not to jump onto the Shockoe-Bottom-or-nothing threat-driven bandwagon being steered by Paul Kreckman of Highwoods Properties.

At this point, with so much of what Kreckman and Bostic were assuring people was true having been exposed at hot air, Ryan would be well advised to stay away from trying to jam a baseball stadium into a neighborhood that is totally inappropriate for such a facility.

Ryan and any other prospective baseball team owners simply must make their deal to buy a team knowing The Diamond is going to the the home field for at least two years, maybe more. So, that clunky old ballpark is going to get some sort of minimal makeover, at least, before any new team comes in.

After all that has happened, matters to do with where the next new stadium ought to be and how it will be financed are not likely to be easily resolved on an artificial, fast-track timetable. It's easy to imagine we are at least three or four years away from opening up a new baseball stadium, anywhere in the metro area.

Update: Maybe we should always wonder when "inevitability" is being hard-sold, and the salesmen get blustery when you ask questions. A reader sent me the following set of links that underline how far Bostic went to create the illusion that was "inevitability":
  1. "Group Nears Completion of Deal..."
  2. "Sale of ... Baseball Team to Richmond Group Appears to Be Close"
  3. "Sale to Richmond group may be 'imminent'"
Update II: Here's part of a reply I made to a reader who commented on a May 14 post about the Public Squares forum at SLANTblog. As my friends all know, I love to make predictions. Then I only talk about the ones that come true. Well, I like my chances on this one.
The politicians at the forum saw voters. And, way more than half of those voters were not buying what Kreckman and Bostic were selling. Politicians can do math. This Public Square forum may well be remembered as the tipping point -- the night the worst idea for developing Shockoe Bottom died.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Signer: 'I'm a Jim Webb Democrat'

Last Thursday lieutenant governor hopeful Mike Signer was in his Fan District campaign office for an interview. Signer is running against Jody Wagner in the June 9th Democratic primary, to earn the No. 2 spot on the statewide ticket.

After his downtown appearance Signer, a former aide to then-Governor Mark Warner, sat down in his campaign office at 10 N. Robinson St. to answer a few questions. In warming up for the questions Signer, 36, spoke of two of his favorite books about politics: "All the King’s Men" (by Robert Penn Warren) and "The Shad Treatment" (by Garrett Epps).

OK, why lieutenant governor?

Click here to read "I'm a Jim Webb Democrat" at

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Gary Gerloff dead

Gary Gerloff playing on Monument Avenue, Easter 2006. (Click to enlarge)

Via blog posts and Facebook friends who are musicians comes news that Gary Gerloff died on Saturday. He was 58.

Gary was a well-known vocalist/guitarist in the region. Worked with many well-respected musicians during his long career as a troubadour and band leader. And, he was a friend.

Last saw Gary at a VCU basketball game; he didn't miss many of them. Now my thoughts are with his immediate family, his brother, Bill, the rest of their family and the legions of friends and fans Gary made along the way.

To visit Gary's web site click here. When I have more information I'll add it to this post.


  • Funeral information: Visitation will be held Wednesday from 4 p.m. - 6 p.m. at St. Edwards Catholic Church at 10701 Huguenot Road. A mass will be held the same evening at 7 p.m. at St. Edwards. Following the mass, there will be a reception at Positive Vibe CafĂ©, located in Stratford Hills shopping center.
  • Click here to read the obituary in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
  • Click here to read "GG", at Tim's Music Journal.

-- H/T to Jim Wark. Photo by F.T. Rea

Remembering a veteran

My maternal grandfather was a veteran of World War I; Frank Wingo Owen was born in what was then Manchester, Virginia, in 1893.

The photograph of him below was shot in 1916 when he was in the Richmond Light Infantry Blues, who were stationed in Brownsville, Texas. For that duty they were converted into a cavalry outfit. He was part of a contingent assigned to protect the border, because Mexican revolutionary/bandit Pancho Villa had been crossing over to raid small towns.
Later the Blues were thrown into WWI in France; the duty there was more dangerous. The story below is about the best lesson-teacher I've ever known.

The Cheaters
by F. T. Rea

Having devoted countless hours to competitive sports and games of all sorts, nothing in that realm is quite as galling to this grizzled scribbler as the cheater’s averted eye of denial, or the practiced tones of his shameless spiel.

In the middle of a pick-up basketball game, or a friendly Frisbee-golf round, too often, my barbed outspokenness over what I have perceived as deliberate cheating has ruffled feathers.

Alas, it's my nature. I can't help it any more than a watchful blue jay can resist dive-bombing an alley cat.

The reader might wonder about whether I'm overcompensating for dishonest aspects of myself, or if I could be dwelling on memories of feeling cheated out of something dear.

OK, fair enough, I don't deny any of that. Still, truth be told, it mostly goes back to a particular afternoon's mischief, gone wrong.


A blue-collar architect with the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway for decades, my maternal grandfather, Frank W. Owen was a natural entertainer. Blessed with a resonant baritone/bass voice, he began singing professionally in his teens and continued performing, as a soloist and with barbershop quartets, into his mid-60s.

Shortly after his retirement, at 65, the lifelong grip on good health he had enjoyed failed; an infection he picked up during a routine hernia surgery at a VA hospital nearly killed him. It left him with no sense of touch in his extremities.

Once he got some of his strength back, he found comfort in returning to his role as umpire of the baseball games played in his yard by the neighborhood's boys. He couldn't stand up behind home plate, anymore, but he did alright sitting in the shade of the plum tree, some 25 feet away.

This was the summer he taught me, along with a few of my friends, the fundamentals of poker. To learn the game we didn’t play for real money. Each player got so many poker chips. If his chips ran out, he became a spectator.

The poker professor said he’d never let us beat him, claiming he owed it to the game itself to win if he could, which he always did. Woven throughout his lessons on betting strategy were stories about poker hands and football games from his cavalry days, serving with the Richmond Blues during World War I.

As likely as not, the stories he told would end up underlining points he saw as standards: He challenged us to expose the true coward at the heart of every bully. "Punch him in the nose," he'd chuckle, "and even if you get whipped he'll never bother you again." In team sports, the success of the team trumped all else. Moreover, withholding one’s best effort in any game, no matter the score, was beyond the pale.

Such lazy afternoons came and went so easily that summer there was no way then, at 11, I could have appreciated how precious they would seem looking back on them.

On the other hand, there were occasions he would make it tough on me. Especially when he spotted a boy breaking the yard's rules or playing dirty. It was more than a little embarrassing when he would wave his cane and bellow his rulings. For flagrant violations, or protesting his call too much, he barred the guilty boy from the yard for a day or two.

F. W. Owen’s hard-edged opinions about fair play, and looking directly in the eye at whatever comes along, were not particularly modern. Nor were they always easy for know-it-all adolescent boys to swallow.

Predictably, the day came when a plot was hatched. We decided to see if artful subterfuge could beat him at poker just once. The conspirators practiced in secret for hours, passing cards under the table with bare feet and developing signals. It was accepted that we would not get away with it for long, but to pull it off for a few hands would be pure fun.

Following baseball, with the post-game watermelon consumed, I fetched the cards and chips. Then the four card sharks moved in to put the caper in play.

To our amazement, the plan went off smoothly. After hands of what we saw as sly tricks we went blatant, expecting/needing to get caught, so we could gloat over having tricked the great master.

Later, as he told the boys' favorite story -- the one about a Spanish women who bit him on the arm at a train station in France -- one-eyed jacks tucked between dirty toes were being passed under the table.

Then the joy began to drain out of the adventure rapidly. With semi-secret gestures I called the ruse off. A couple of hands were played with no shenanigans but he ran out of chips, anyway.

Head bowed, he sighed, “Today I can’t win for loosing; you boys are just too good for me.” Utterly dependent on his cane for balance he slowly walked into the shadows toward the back porch. It was agonizing.

The game was over; we were no longer pranksters. We were cheaters.

As he carefully negotiated the steps, my last chance to save the day came and went without a syllable out of me to set the record straight. It was hard to believe that he hadn’t seen what we were doing, but my guilt burned so deeply I didn't wonder enough about that, then.


My grandfather didn’t play poker with us again. He went on umpiring, and telling his salty stories afterward over watermelon. We tried playing poker the same way without him, but it didn’t work; the value the chips had magically represented was gone. The boys had outgrown poker without real money on the line.

Although I thought about that afternoon's shame many times before he died nine years later, neither of us ever mentioned it. For my part, when I tried to bring it up, to clear the air, the words always stuck in my throat.

Eventually, I grew to become as intolerant of petty cheating as he was in his day, maybe even more so. And, as it was for him, the blue jay has always been my favorite bird.

-- 30 --

Washington Post: 'Mr. Deeds on June 9'

The Washington Post likes Creigh Deeds in the three-way Democratic gubernatorial primary on June 9. This move bolsters the idea that the race has actually boiled down to either Deeds or Terry McAuliffe, making Brian Moran the odd man out.
The knock on Mr. Deeds is that he's a nice guy -- an odd insult. The implication is that he might not be forceful enough to push his agenda through a balky legislature. Our judgment, from watching Mr. Deeds over the years, is that he is more politically astute than his "aw, shucks" persona might suggest. He has carefully studied Democratic governors who have accomplished the most -- notably Mark R. Warner and Gerald L. Baliles -- and understands how they mixed reaching out with playing tough. He's better positioned to do both than either of his opponents.
Click here to read the entire editorial.

Friday, May 22, 2009

CultureWorks Billboard Art Project

The Arts Council's John Bryan bought some local bloggers lunch today. In a well-appointed room overlooking the James River, Bryan told us about some of his group's new thinking. The lunch was attended by about a dozen of Richmond's bloggers. I was the token geezer in the bunch.

It was a good discussion and I'm looking forward to our next get-together. Near the end of the confab Bryan asked for ideas. Here's my first one, off the top of my head. As a working title, let's call it the "CultureWorks Billboard Art Project."

It's a variation on the "Rush Hour Art Show," a billboard project staged in Richmond about 20 years ago.

Six companies chip in $8,000 to $10,000* to underwrite the project. The project's end product will be 18 outdoor billboards that stay up for a month or so. Each billboard will feature the art of an area artist. The billboards will be produced by enlarging art that has been submitted by artists who will compete for selection.

Section Process: A committee of appointees will pick the best 45 or 50 of the submissions for display at an art show in a downtown gallery. Hopefully, the committee will be a group with varied backgrounds and tastes. Not just the usual (well-connected) suspects. Maybe some blogging artists should be on the committee?

The viewing public will be invited to vote for their favorites. The public will also be able to vote online, too. A web site will exist to show the art in the contest and record votes. The top six will be winners that get their art blown up and made into a billboard.

The sponsoring companies will get to pick one each. And, the committee will fill out the last set of six by picking the best of what hasn't already been picked. The total will be 18. The billboards might all go up at the same time, or spaced out over some period of time.

The contestants will be working with a broad theme. It could be as wide as the river, or as tall as a skyscraper. It could be something like depicting First Friday scenes, or the Richmond Folk Festival. The theme could be drawn from Richmond's history, or it could be futuristic. Today, I'm not going to try to think up what the theme ought to be.

Letting everyone/anyone vote in what will be a third of the winners would make it truly different from most such art shows, in which all winners are chosen by experts.

If the blogosphere is used as the prime way of disseminating the first wave of information on this project, the bloggers could "own" it, to some extent. That would give it the cachet of a bottom-up phenomenon, rather than another artsy thing for and about fat cats.

This post is just the bare bones concept. Lots of other details would have to be worked out.

* Just a guess at what it would cost.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How much for that 'free' baseball stadium?

Well, it now seems the locals who've been stubbornly saying that the City of Richmond will end up having to back the bonds it will take to build a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom, according to the Highwoods Properties Shockoe Bottom Center plan, were more than merely "ill informed."

Highwood's top pitchman, Paul Kreckman, used "ill informed" to characterize some of those folks in attendance last week at the Richmond Times-Dispatch's Public Square forum. Basically, if one rose to express doubt about what Kreckman was selling, then ignorance was to blame.

Yet, in light of Mayor Dwight Jones' press conference yesterday, Kreckman might have been closer to the truth if he had called those questioning just how "free" the proposed stadium deal would turn out to be something more like, "realistic," or perhaps to be specific -- "on the money."

STYLE Weekly's Scott Bass writes:
While the developers have been promoting the project as a free ride that would come at little cost to taxpayers, the consultants found otherwise -- the ballpark can’t be financed as proposed, Jones told reporters Monday, without the city’s financial support. Still, he seemed encouraged by the possibility.

“While I am not ready to give the go ahead to the Highwoods’ proposal, I can say that this is a potentially transformative project,” Jones said.

Click here to read the entire piece at STYLE. Click here to read more about this development in the RT-D.

Given what Jones said about the stadium bonds needing to be backed by the City, in my book, the absolute best tool those who now oppose committing Richmond's taxpayers to gambling on the Highwoods plan is a referendum: Let the people say what they want. Let the politicians listen!

Please click here to read about that concept at the Fan District Hub.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pranks for the memories

Biograph Times is a web page (blogger) that has a collection of firsthand stories related to/set in the Biograph Theater, the repertory cinema which was at 814 W. Grace Street from 1972-87.

On the evening of February 11, 1972, the new venture at 814 West Grace Street was launched with a gem of a party. The local press was all over it. The first feature presented was a delightful French war-mocking comedy — “King of Hearts” (1966). On Richmond’s newest silver screen, Genevieve Bujold was dazzling opposite the droll Alan Bates. In the lobby, as flashbulbs popped the dry champagne flowed steadily.

During the ‘60s, college film societies thrived. Knowing film was cool; it could get you laid. By the ‘70s, many of the kids who had grown up on television worshiped classic movies, some had become connoisseurs of the moving image. Popular culture, in general, was becoming a subject for serious study on campus for the first time.

Click here to read some true stories, as seen through a prism of a confessed prankster.

Ah, ah ... bullpen!

Is Bryan Bostic an expert on America's Pastime? Or, is he just the most visible guy in town who wants to use baseball to get his way in a real estate deal? A post at the Fan District Hub teases Mr. Bostic about his baseball expertise.
First with Richmond Baseball Initiative and now as the man leading the group calling itself Richmond Baseball Club, Bostic has been consistent in his insistence that he is a baseball guy and that the game will thrive if it moves to Shockoe Bottom. Bostic has trotted out his passion for baseball at nearly every opportunity.Yet, at the Albert Hill Middle School presentation on Apr.22, he had a telling moment that didn’t do much to support his contention that he is a bona fide baseball expert.

Click here to read the entire post.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The best of disinfectants


“Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”
– Justice Louis Brandeis

In 2008 a widespread and diffused longing for cultural and political change coalesced. Voters coast-to-coast willingly took leaps of faith. But what happened on election day, with its dramatic mandate for change, was hardly the fickle result of a tidal wave. It came from what had been a long steady rain.

With high-profile executives under fire in many quarters, it was a bad year for bad leaders. In both the private and public sectors incompetent leadership was bitterly denounced.

Now, with the 100th day signposts in the rear-view mirror the nation is watching President Barack Obama, to see what he really meant when he promised "change." Richmonders have their eyes on Mayor Dwight Jones, to see how much he will be different than his self-absorbed predecessor.

Obama and Jones have both followed executives who disappointed many of the people who voted for them. They both have followed men who liked to keep the citizenry in the dark, when they used tactics they knew would not set well with John Q. Public.

So, on torture and other prisoner-abuse matters, Obama needs to stand aside and let the truth come out. Whether people go to jail for authorizing torture, or actually doling out the cruel and unusual punishment, is a separate issue. That will come later.

But whatever the truth is about what crimes were committed by Americans and their agents in the shadows, in the name of prosecuting the so-called War on Terror, it must be aired out for the whole world to see.

Closer to home, Dwight Jones has the power to make a savvy move that would put him in a good light. In his fifth month in office he could act boldly to show everybody in town, including current and future employees of The City of Richmond, just how willing he is to break with yesterday’s cloistered way of doing the people’s business.

Jones could say, “Let there be sunlight.”

Or, Jones could blow off the opportunity, to stick with the traditional way of running governments that has wanted as little kibitzing from citizens as possible. Whatever Jones does, “sunlight” is a political issue that is only going to get bigger.

I just spent a frustrating week trying to get some very basic information about who owns what, to do with theaters and such that the City of Richmond once owned/owns -- it' still not clear to me -- out of official spokespersons. At this writing, I can't say there's skullduggery afoot with all that. But I can say that it makes red flags pop up when I sense people are hiding something, or stalling me.

When I see that the City of Richmond passed a law in 2008 to keep me from being able to follow the money, when the Carpenter Theatre opens in September, it makes me wonder why City Council went to so much trouble to keep me in the dark.

Today’s technology makes it possible for City Hall to open itself up to scrutiny from any citizen with access to the Internet. If Richmond wants to do it, this city could allow the taxpayers to track their money through the machinery of government to where it gets spent. And, with a mouse click they could see exactly what properties the citizens of Richmond own, how and when they were acquired, fair estimates of their value and what liens and leases exist.

Oh yeah, let's also see how those city-owned properties are being used.

As fresh as that concept might seem to some readers, it’s been bubbling in the blogosphere for some time. One noteworthy and innovative step has already been taken toward more citizen oversight of routine government business. A couple of years ago, Waldo Jaquith, one of Virginia’s best known political bloggers, launched a website to track bills through the General Assembly. It’s called Richmond Sunlight.

Yes, the same Internet that offers unlimited opportunities to waste time, could also be the key to making democracy function properly in the 21st century through swift and greater accountability. Besides, since the government already watches us all the time, why shouldn’t we be able to watch it?

In Richmond no one has written more eloquently about the beauty of sunlight/transparency into matters involving the use of public funds than freelance writer Don Harrison, who publishes Save Richmond. Although he's been taking some ribbing this week, SaveRichmond won the Laurence E. Richardson Freedom of Information Award in 2005 (it was Harrison and two partners then) for its investigative journalism, to do with what is now known as Richmond CenterStage.

It won’t be long before more political candidates catch on to this movement toward openness. Advocating more sunlight into government’s handling of money is going to get politicians elected, whether they are liberals or conservatives.

Just how this citizen oversight of the flow of money would be accomplished, technically, is something best left to the IT experts. But if Mayor Jones wants there to be a portal through which we can view how his administration handles money, and weigh that performance, he can make it happen. If he really wants to be a change agent he will make that happen.

Part of the answer to the mind-boggling trouble with money this nation is facing, in the private and public sectors, is more sunlight into how that money moves.

– 30 –

– Words and art by F.T. Rea

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pitchmen for Shockoe Bottom stadium strike out

Like 200-or-so others, I went down to the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Tuesday night to attend the Public Square forum. It was the 24th such forum staged by the newspaper, but the first one for me. I was impressed with how smoothly the two hours of back and forth went.

"Debating the resolution: Shockoe Bottom is the best place for a new ballpark" was the forum's topic. A piece I penned on how the debate went, "Baseball Talk: Pitching Panned," is up at
Leading up to the Public Square forum, Bostic, with Kreckman at his side, had made several presentations to the public in various locations around town. Throughout the process, Bostic has continued to assert that a baseball stadium financed and built according to their plan will be delivered “free” to Richmond’s taxpayers.

Diradour challenged Bostic’s assertion, "There ain’t nothing free!"

Click here to read the entire piece.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

CenterStage secrets?

With CenterStage set to open in Sept. there are still lots of questions about how it will operate and why. Unfortunately, answers are sometimes in short supply.

For the second installment on the City of Richmond and the entertainment industry at, "The Dark Side of CenterStage," click here.

To read the first installment, "The Show Mustn't Go On," click here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Baseball, Bozos and sunsets

With tonight's (7 p.m.) forum at the Richmond Times-Dispatch's downtown headquarters, baseball is on my mind. I'm thinking about how I first got drawn into the discussion of where to play professional baseball in Richmond.

When the Richmond Baseball Initiative push for building a baseball stadium started complicating the $18.5 million plan to refurbish The Diamond, which is owned by the Richmond Metropolitan Authority, I didn't like the way some of the talk went; especially R-Braves general manager Bruce Baldwin's finger-pointing at the RMA's general manager Mike Berry.

It all seems like a long time ago, now.

The RMA's deal fell apart when the counties bolted. Then the Atlanta Braves and the Richmond Braves were sold from Time Warner to Liberty Media and the controversial notion for a new stadium in Shockoe Bottom faded away, as the numbers didn't seem to add up.

Then Mayor Doug Wilder staged his Friday Night Fiasco; a few days later the Braves management and Gwinnett County began their talks about putting what were then the R-Braves in stadium to be built in the suburbs of Atlanta. Three months later the news broke that 2008 would be the last season for the R-Braves to play their home games on the Boulevard.

Days before the end of Wilder's term as mayor, the Shockoe Bottom baseball stadium concept reappeared, like magic! It seemed the squirrelly Wilder had changed his mind, again.

Bryan Bostic (previously with RBI) announced that he and his partners would buy a minor league team to play in a stadium that developer Highwoods Properties would build. This time, we were assured the numbers would add up.

Of course, there's much more to this story and I'm still not so sure about the numbers. Over the years, my original objections to a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom have been bolstered and I've formed some new objections, as I've been drawn deeper into the story.

The only objection I will reiterate now is the original one: The backers and boosters for this baseball stadium scheme seem to believe that baseball in Shockoe Bottom will be successful even if some good part of what were the R-Braves fans don't come to the new team's games. Baseball fans don't matter to them.

Well, I'm convinced they are wrong. I think they are so concerned about real estate, they have taken their eyes off the ball.

They seem to believe that if you stuff enough distractions into the picture people are going to pay to see a baseball game, but they won't care about watching the game. Put a miniature golf course in the ballpark. Put in a Ferris wheel and a waterslide, etc. They're going to attract so many loyal fans of activities like Dunk-the-Bozo and bumper cars that it won't matter how many true baseball fans show up.

In other words, baseball will just be a backdrop. The game itself will be used like mood music in the background.

Of minor league baseball, Bostic has said, "It's not about wins and losses, it's about the experience ... it's not about the game, it's about sunsets."

Maybe he's right.

Maybe so much has changed that baseball fans don't care about baseball, anymore. I expect to hear that point made tonight at the forum. We'll see if I'm the only guy left in town who still thinks it matters what baseball fans who DO WATCH the game itself want in the way of a baseball park.


Update: At the Public Square forum at least two-thirds of the speakers were clearly not in favor of the Shockoe Bottom baseball proposal. The audience broke the same way. The Highwoods Properties VP, Paul Kreckman, complained that they were "ill-informed" to disagree with him.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Portugal decriminalized drugs; what's happened since?

Decriminalization of the use of marijuana is beginning to get some traction. The money being spent in this country to chase and imprison pot smokers may not have been alarming when mandatory sentencing was popular 15 years ago.

But now it looks crazy to go on with the War on Drugs, as if we can afford it. And, as if it's actually working!

In Portugal marijuana and all other so-called "recreational" drugs were decriminalized in 2001. The Cato Institute has the story of what has happened since.
Notably, decriminalization has become increasingly popular in Portugal since 2001. Except for some far-right politicians, very few domestic political factions are agitating for a repeal of the 2001 law. And while there is a widespread perception that bureaucratic changes need to be made to Portugal's decriminalization framework to make it more efficient and effective, there is no real debate about whether drugs should once again be criminalized. More significantly, none of the nightmare scenarios touted by preenactment decriminalization opponents — from rampant increases in drug usage among the young to the transformation of Lisbon into a haven for "drug tourists" — has occurred.
Click here to read the entire report.

In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said on Tuesday that he's ready to consider legalizing and taxing marijuana.
[Schwarzenegger] says it’s time to debate proposals such as a bill introduced in the Legislature earlier this year that would treat marijuana like alcohol.
Click here to read more in the Los Angeles Times.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

More on City's anti-show biz ways

Richmond's decades-long campaign to stifle show biz was documented in this article, which was printed in the Richmond News Leader on Nov. 6, 1982:
Art or litter? Judge rules handbills not in ‘public way’
by Frank Donnelly

One man’s art may be another man’s litter, but the real question was whether it blocks the “public way.”

Terry Rea, manager of the Biograph Theatre in Richmond, was charged in June with obstructing a city sidewalk when he posted handbills on utility poles in the Fan District.

Rea’s attorneys, eliciting testimony on mass media and art from several professors at Virginia Commonwealth University, argued yesterday that the city law limited their client’s freedom of speech.

However, Richmond General District Judge Jose R. Davila, Jr., said the issue came down to whether the posters obstructed the public way, and he ruled that the commonwealth’s attorney’s office failed to prove they did.

Davila dismissed the charge against the manager of the theater but stopped short of finding the city law unconstitutional, which also had been requested by Rea’s attorney’s.

The city now must decide whether to find a better legal argument to defend the city law or to revise it, officials said. The law is used by the police to combat excessive advertising in the public way, which is defined as any place open to the public, such as a street or sidewalk.

“The poles were perfectly clean this morning,” Capt. Robert T. Millikin, Jr., said about the possible impact of the decision. “Between you and me, I don’t know what they’ll [sic] going to look like between now and tonight.”

For the last year, Fan District residents have complained to police about the the unsightliness caused by posters on trees and utility poles, Millikin said. The police asked businesses in June to stop posting the handbills and most businesses did so, he said.

Rea said he always has relied on handbills as an inexpensive but effective way to advertise movies at the theater, which specializes in the showing of avant-garde movies. Two weeks later, he was charged with a misdemeanor after posting advertisements for the anti-nuclear power movie, “The Atomic Cafe.”

The manager was charged under a law that states: “It shall be unlawful for any persons to obstruct or use a public way for advertising, promotional or solicitation purposes or for any purpose connected therewith ... by placing attacking [sic] or maintaining a sign on or to a fixture (such as a utility pole) ...”

Rea’s attorneys, Stuart R. Kaplan and John G. Colan, contended in court that the posters did not obstruct the public way, and the arresting officer agreed with them.

“It was nothing anyone would trip over,” Patrolman James P. Gilliam said about the posters.

The attorneys also argued that the city law abridged Rea’s freedom of speech by denying him one possible way to advertise.

David M. White, a former VCU professor of mass communication and author of 20 books on the media. said handbills are a unique form of communication. The theater could advertise in newspapers but the cost was prohibitive, he said.

Jerry Donato, an associate VCU professor of fine arts, said that posters in the Fan District contained both art and messages. “The Atomic Cafe” posters, which contained the slogan, “A hot spot in a Cold War,” criticized the use of nuclear power, he said.

Asked by assistant commonwealth’s attorney William B. Bray whether a bunch of soup cans on the ground is art, Donato replied, “It depends on who arranged them.”

The courtroom, which held about 30 artists and supporters of the theater, erupted into laughter.

Bray said purpose of the statute was to prevent littering but agreed that another reason was to prevent obstruction of the public way. The posting of handbills could block the public way by falling off of a utility pole and causing pedestrians to slip, he said. The posting of the advertisements caused a hardship for the police, which sometimes had to take down the posters, Millikin said.

“This ties my men up,” he said. “We have more important things to do, God knows.”

Rea and his attorneys said they were happy with the decision although they wished Davila had gone farther and ruled the city law unconstitutional.

“I’m glad there are no criminal charges against me,” said Rea, who will continue to post the handbills. “But I wish the judge had gone further and ordered the statute to be unconstitutional. I don’t whether I’m safe.”

Before the trial, Rea had argued, “The handbill posted in the public way is a unique and vital form of communication. Production and distribution is direct, swift and cheap.”

That message was printed on a handbill.

Richmond's anti-show biz attitude

"The Show Mustn't Go On" is a new piece I've written about Richmond's awkward relationship to the entertainment industry. It blames politicians from 50 years ago for using laws and taxes to set in motion an anti-show biz attitude that is still walks City Hall's corridors like a zombie.
The Byrd Machine’s brain-trust did not want black students and white students matriculating together. And, it sure as hell didn’t want them dancing to rock ’n’ roll music together in public spaces. Some readers may not remember how much the bizarre anti-rock ’n’ roll movement of that era was fueled by fears to do with race.
Click here to read the entire article at

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

100th Day noise

President Barack “No Drama” Obama passed the 100th Day signpost without breaking stride. Coming toward the 100th Day, the media tried their best to make a compelling story out of grading Obama’s overall performance on the job.
It gave the political news broadcasters yet another opportunity to prop up trash-talking spokespersons from the fringe, as if such opportunists represented widely-held views, or knew the inside story. It gave the political bloggers yet another opportunity to play rate-a-record, too. For many bloggers assigning a grade to anything is as good as it gets.

Since a lot of Republicans are sounding more “fringe” every day, it did them no good to take the bait and trot out their warmed-over, pre-2006 talking points, AGAIN.

The smartest Democrats said little to feed the story; instead, they went to a bar to celebrate the soon-to-be 60th donkey in the U.S. Senate.

Now that’s a round number that will matter.

President Obama smiled and waved, as he ran by the 100th day noise; same easy stride. In the last year-and-a-half, his much-demonstrated ability to keep on keeping on has to merit an A-plus.

And, “noise” it was, because it amounted to a cacophony of conflicting, agenda-driven flapdoodle.

Even those who disagree with Obama's policies have to admit this guy has been unflappable. Of course, for those fringe hard-heads who hate seeing most people in the world liking the president of the USA -- because they see that as a weakness -- well, perhaps Obama's smooth style will never do.

Huff on Vick: 'turn him loose with the dogs'

Yesterday, at the Southern Conference's Hall of Fame ceremony in Spartansburg, Sam Huff said he made "$12,000" playing linebacker for the New York Giants in 1959, when he won the NFL's MVP award. The reliably outspoken Washington Redskins radio commentator played his college football in the 1950s at West Virginia.

According to an article in the Richmond Ties-Dispatch, among Huff's remarks on various topics he offered up what he saw as the cure for Michael Vick:

"I think they ought to turn him loose with the dogs," Huff said. "That's what I think of Michael Vick." Huff was among the Southern Conference's first Hall of Fame class, a group that included some of the greats of their sports such as golf's Arnold Palmer and basketball's Jerry West.

Click here to read the entire piece.

In 1986 I met Sam Huff at a Redskins Monday night game and listened to him tell football stories to some young sports reporters that gathered around him. It was about three hours before the game was to start at RFK. Click here to see a short video from that day, made by a local TV station.

Anyway, for a good 20 minutes, or more, Huff was funny and quite open with his opinions as we killed some time. For instance, he was still pissed off at Conrad Dobler, a particularly offensive lineman (St. Louis Cardinals) he battled in the 1960s.

As I'm a lifelong Redskins fan, for decades I've listened to Huff's unbridled opinions about Washington's games and whatever else popped into his mind, as he played the comedy relief for his broadcast partner, Sonny Jurgensen.

So, I can well imagine how Huff sounded going off on Michael Vick. It doesn't surprise me at all that crusty old Huff, with his keen eye, would have no use for the likes of Mr. Vick.