Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Breaking news: Vilsack still has his job

If only the Obama administration had restrained itself last week. If only Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack had first done a little checking, before he acted upon a heads-up about a potentially damaging story about to air on Glenn Beck’s show.

Instead, Vilsack let himself get snookered by a trick as old as storytelling, itself -- editing.

Just imagine how sweet it would have been for the White House if Fox News had run the story with Vilsack’s spokesperson saying, “The Shirley Sherrod tape raises serious questions that call for an investigation. However, until we know more about the tape and have spoken with Mrs. Sherrod, there will be no further statement.”

A day later the entire unedited tape would have surfaced, as it did, anyway. Then Beck, plus whoever else had weighed in by then to condemn Sherrod‘s supposed racism, would have been called upon to eat crow.

After that the history of how the tape had been prepared and made its way into the mainstream press would have been the story. But caught in a panic, Vilsack passed on that beautiful opportunity to one-up his rivals.

Instead, Sherrod was fired on the telephone, pronto!

Then we all witnessed the spectacle unfold. Fox News looked bad. The NAACP looked bad. The White House looked worse than any of them. Vilsack’s blunder revealed a scaredy-cat side of the Obama team that was just the opposite of the coolness under fire it had exhibited during the campaign in 2008.

Perhaps that is what living hardwired to the electronic media will do any group of people, eventually. But when quick response time is valued over accuracy and fair play, isn't trouble bound to follow?

According to reports President Barrack Obama said, “Vilsack jumped the gun.”

Speaking of jumping the gun, remember how long Democrats laughed at the premature jubilation of President George Bush in his jet pilot getup? “Mission accomplished!”

Well, there will be Republicans laughing at the cell phone sacking of Sherrod for at least that long.

So, the character behind the crafted-to-deceive tape, Andrew Breitbart, hit a home run in the dirty tricks game. Plenty of Republicans will decide that his highlights-reel version of Sherrod's remarks revealed a greater truth than the unedited version. No doubt, Breitbart's celebrity status has been buffed by this episode, so we've hardly heard the last of him.

At this writing, the most curious part of this story remains -- Vilsack still has his job.

Monday, July 26, 2010

When Oops Isn't Enough

My most recent OpEd piece at compares the oil spill in the Gulf to a pollution story closer to home.
Virginians hope nothing, dredging or a storm, will stir the old poison up. More fingers crossed. We’re told by government regulators the amount of Kepone still being found in the seafood harvested from those waters is not too dangerous for consumption.

In the late ’70s some millions of dollars changed hands, but nobody at Allied ever did a day in jail for what Kepone did to harm innocent Virginians in a myriad of ways, some we’re still finding out about.

Recent news from France offers evidence that Allied’s recklessness dramatically increased the chance its employees, who stood ankle deep in Kepone as they shoveled it into bags, would get prostate cancer.
Click here to read "When Oops Isn't Enough."

Hinkle questions Cuccinelli's fraud probe at UVa.

In spite of his own conservative leanings, Bart Hinkle didn't have much good to say about Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's fraud investigation of former UVa. climatologist Michael Mann (Mann is now at Penn State):

If Mann had taken state grant money and then blown it on cocaine and prostitutes, that would be one thing. But Cuccinelli doesn't say Mann failed to do the work for which he was paid: producing research on matters such as Resolving the Scale-wide Sensitivities in the Dynamical Coupling Between Climate and the Biosphere and Decadal Variability in the Tropical Indo-Pacific: Integrating Paleo & Coupled Model Results.

Rather, Cuccinelli says Mann's conclusions from the work he did are wrong. The AG hangs his hat on the fact that other scientists dispute the hockey stick graph and so forth. Yet as UVa argues in a May 27 court filing, "FATA does not authorize the Attorney General to engage in scientific debate."

To read Hinkle's excellent analysis of this matter, published in Thursday's RT-D click here.

One gets the feeling that hardcore skeptics of Mann's research are assuming that everyone on the other side is as likely to stretch or ignore the truth as they are. So, they assume legitimate scientists, whose findings they reject, are mostly trying to find evidence to justify their elitist, liberal beliefs.

Shanahan at Redskins Park

From the Washington Redskins web site:
Mike Shanahan, 57, was hired Jan. 6 as the Redskins’ executive vice president and head coach. As head coach of the Denver Broncos from 1995-2008, he guided the club to back-to-back Super Bowl victories following the 1997-98 seasons and compiled a record of 154-103. He spoke with’s Larry Weisman in an exclusive Q&A interview at Redskins Park.
With the Redskins training camp to open on Thursday click here to read the interview.

Krugman on climate-change denial

In a Sunday OpEd piece for the New York Times Pulitzer Prize winning writer Paul Krugman connects the dots on why we can't pass legislation to deal effectively with climate change.
Nor is this evidence tainted by scientific misbehavior. You’ve probably heard about the accusations leveled against climate researchers — allegations of fabricated data, the supposedly damning e-mail messages of “Climategate,” and so on. What you may not have heard, because it has received much less publicity, is that every one of these supposed scandals was eventually unmasked as a fraud concocted by opponents of climate action, then bought into by many in the news media. You don’t believe such things can happen? Think Shirley Sherrod.
Click here to read the entire piece.

Music and pork in Libby Hill Pk.

How about an outdoor live music festival to be staged on the grassy hill that is Libby Hill Park? How about a Saturday afternoon in early October? With plenty of barbecue and beer on hand, does it sound familiar? Weather permitting, do you think the concept might draw a crowd a crowd?

A source with knowledge of the plans, tells me STYLE Weekly and the Church Hill Association are in the process of cooking up just such a promotion for this fall. Details aren't available at this writing.

However, readers should know this new endeavor does not involve the small group of backers that planned and oversaw the annual High on the Hog parties that were staged in the same space between 1977 and 2006. So, regardless of how derivative this concept may be, on the surface, it is not another installment of High on the Hog.

Still, I'm looking forward to seeing what name the current promoters will put on the event.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cuccinelli demands VMFA doodles

An example of what Cuccinelli might see as fake art: Pollacks' Autumn Rhythm Number 30 (1950)

With the temperature in triple digits outside the courtroom, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli was back in court on Friday afternoon, this time to turn the heat up on more alleged fraud within academia. On the heels of his Civil Investigative Demand directed against the University of Virginia, to do with climate-change research, now Cuccinelli has the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in his sights.

So far, no one at the VMFA will go on the record to say what its position is/will be regarding Cuccinelli’s demand to see all records to do with Abstract Expressionism, and abstract art in general, for the last four decades. That includes all emails and doodles in margins.

“Flabbergasted,” was the word that summed up the feelings of an anonymous source within the VMFA, who spoke off-the-record in a dark restaurant a few blocks from the Museum. Cuccinelli’s sweeping demand for information will apparently require thousands of hours of work by VMFA employees.

“I’m no art critic," said Cuccinelli. "This probe isn't about good or bad art, it's about un-art. It’s about fraud. The people who‘ve been handing out grants to their friends and spending the taxpayers' money to exhibit so-called abstract works of art -- stuff that nobody knows for sure what it even means! -- they are now going to have to answer for their dishonesty.”

Cuccinelli, a vocal skeptic of the value of ambiguous art, said he believes it’s mostly a matter of people with no talent for drawing trying to dupe the public into supporting fake art. He suggested the entire concept of abstract art has always "been a hoax." He wondered aloud how much money has been paid to art professors who perpetuated the hoax.

“If they want to sell meaningless paintings and sculpture in prissy private art galleries that’s one thing,” said Cuccinelli, “but when the taxpayers' dollars are used as a social program to redistribute money to slackers who can‘t even draw, well, that‘s where this attorney general draws the line.”

When asked if he planned to go after the art departments at state supported universities that have been teaching students about Abstract Expressionism, etc., Cuccinelli winked, “That’s a question for another day. Hopefully a cooler day.”


Note: Isn't it about time for a little satirical relief from the heat? Here are the two other posts -- here and here -- that actually inspired me to concoct this one for SLANTblog. Who else wants to play?

Friday, July 23, 2010

The End for Buttermilk & Molasses?

One of Richmond's best known blogs over the last six or seven years has been John Sarvay's Buttermilk & Molasses. Over the years Sarvay's thoughtful commentary has been provocative without being incendiary. And, he's had a sharp eye for seeing through propaganda and claptrap.
Buttermilk and Molasses introduced me to hundreds of the coolest people in Richmond – the known, the less-known, and the not known at all. And for that reason alone, I have no regrets.
Now Sarvay says he's going to shut down his blog.

Read why here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fear the Taliban Monkey

After all those years of the terrorists training on monkey bars in secret camps, somewhere in Afghanistan -- we've all seen the film clips -- now it seems the war may have escalated to to a bizarre new level. Now there are reports the Taliban is recruiting and training monkeys to be terrorists ... click here to read the story at Wonkette.

It's not clear why the monkeys would be taking sides in the conflict. Powerful mind-bending drugs can't be ruled out.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The impact of 'Mockingbird'

If the book "To Kill a Mockingbird" is one of your favorites, then this story by a husband and wife writing team will make you feel good.
So time flies, but can it be possible that 50 years have passed since Mockingbird first hit the public prints? Yes, it is true: J.B. Lippincott and Co. (since merged into HarperCollins) released this novel on July 11, 1960. (The movie followed in 1962.) Now available in more than 40 languages and still (amazingly) selling upward of 750,000 copies a year, this masterwork of Alabama native Harper Lee has had an impact on the lives of countless people -- and most certainly the co-authors of this article.
Click here to read "Holland: Mockingbird Brought Couple Together" by Allyne and Bob Holland in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Cuccinelli's Miracle

Last November he was elected to be Virginia's attorney general; since then Ken Cuccinelli has been a dependable headline-maker. A new OpEd piece of mine about Cuccinelli's blind eye toward global warming is up at
Meanwhile, Cuccinelli’s unusual probe into a former University of Virginia professor’s research notes and emails lost some steam recently, as a pair of investigations have exonerated scientists accused of fudging the facts about climate change.
Click here to read "Cuccinelli's Miracle."


Sunday, July 11, 2010

An attaboy from professional haters

Well, one just never knows what might appear on a lazy Sunday afternoon to make one's day. When I got home from Chiocca's, watching Spain outlast Holland to win the World Cup, I found an unexpected email from a friend ... with a link. He expressed surprise to find my name in a rather unusual place.

The link took me to a brief recently filed in a Supreme Court case, Snyder vs. Westboro, to be heard in the fall. At the bottom of Page 4, an article I wrote for is cited. Scroll down past the table of contents and -- voila! -- there it is.

No doubt, if I had known where it would end up being seen, I'd have worked a little harder on the OpEd piece about free speech, to polish it up for the Supremes to read ... or, at least for their clerks to read. (I just noticed a typo in it.) Here's the link to the piece, "How Free Are We to Express Hate?" which was published on June 21, 2010.

Of course, I love it when the people I happily disagree with on almost everything under the sun -- such as the outrageously tasteless demonstrators from the Westboro Baptist Church -- show me they like my work. In this case, getting an attaboy from the Fred W. Phelps hate team has provided me with a supreme grin.

-- Hat-tip to Waldo Jaquith

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Republicans acquiescing to a poisonous 'demagoguery'

Here's some straight talk from a Republican congressman, via AP:
Too many Republican leaders are acquiescing to a poisonous "demagoguery" that threatens the party's long-term credibility, says a veteran GOP House member who was defeated in South Carolina's primary last month. While not naming names, 12-year incumbent Rep. Bob Inglis suggested in interviews with The Associated Press that tea party favorites such as former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and right-wing talk show hosts like Glenn Beck are the culprits.
Click here to read the entire article.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Braves: Best in the NL

As the All-Star break approaches there’s a nice story developing in Atlanta. It’s especially nice if you‘re a Braves fan.

At this writing Atlanta has the best record in the National League, 50-35. The Braves longtime manager, Bobby Cox, 69, says he’s hanging up his spikes when this season ends, however it ends. The Braves pitching staff looks strong, once again, and they have the rookie outfielder everybody in Major League Baseball has been talking about all season, Jason Heyward, 20, who made the All-Star team as a starter.

One of the great losses local baseball fans suffered, due to the R-Braves moving their outfit to Gwinnett, was that we didn’t get to see Heyward, 6-5, 240, a five-tool phenom, play in Richmond during the 2009 season. However, local fans did get to see Cox (depicted above) play third base at Parker Field during the 1967 season.

Barring injuries to key players at the worst time the Braves seemed well equipped to make a run into postseason play. After 14 straight seasons in the playoffs, Atlanta has failed to make the grade for the last four years. The players must love it that, so far, they have performed well enough to have Cox’s legions of fans envisioning him winning a World Series ring for his last campaign.

-- Words and illustration by F.T. Rea

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Single Bullet Theory's music unearthed

The Single Bullet Theory, a Fan District-based band (1976-84), was probably the most visible Richmond band of the punk rock scene era. Now you can take a walk down memory lane, via the Internet, to learn more what SBT was about.

Click here to listen to Rocker's Night Out (Punk for a Day) and some other 30-some-year-old songs, via the Free Music Archive.

The heat wave blues

The record-breaking heat got you beat? According the the RT-D's Rex Springston, maybe you better get used to it.
Richmond's recent unpleasantness included the warmest March through May on record. After that came a record June in which every day hit 80 degrees or higher, 19 reached 90 or higher, and three got to 102. That hot streak might not signal climate change, but it offers a preview of life in a warmer world, some observers say.
Today: 103! Click here to read the entire article in the RT-D.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Beer and bullets

Well, here it is July 1. Now we know that the month that just ended was the warmest June on record in Richmond, according to today's RT-D. Remember those folks in February who saw snow on the ground as proof that global warming was a hoax? Didn't hear much from them during June.

No, they were probably busy as little beavers criticizing President Obama for being too hard on BP.

July 1 also means a bunch of new laws will start being enforced. Easily the most controversial is the statewide law to do with toting guns in saloons. Now, in Virginia, adults must carry handguns when they enter restaurants, if they want to consume alcohol. Note: It's now OK to carry a concealed weapon inside a church, too, be it's not yet required.

However, starting today, if the person tending bar or waiting on your table asks to see your handgun you must produce it, just as you have to show an ID.

Still, the vice president of Virginians for Gunfights, Phineas T. Bluster, decried the failure of the General Assembly to require handguns in churches. "Mother of pearl! Nobody is safe on a dad-burned slippery slope."

Friday Films at VMFA

A short piece I penned about an old friend's new project at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is in the latest issue of STYLE Weekly.
So if you haven’t already found sufficient reason to check out the dazzling new museum, perhaps a gourmet movie and some serious discussions about the art of the film on a Friday evening is just what’s needed.

“We are working toward achieving status as a top-10 comprehensive art museum,” [Trent] Nicholas says, “and motion pictures are part of that drive.”

Click here to read about Friday Films at VMFA.