Category Archives: Rants

Don’t call us and we won’t call you

The caller ID on our phone showed a call from Salt Lake City Tuesday.

No message on voice mail: Just the call, along with four or five others from 800 numbers.

I recognized the Salt Lake number: The call center for The Tarrance Group, a Republican polling firm based in Alexandria. I know the folks at Tarrance and worked with them in a number of campaigns. My guess is they were calling to poll on George Allen.

Just for grins, I ran backtraces on the 800, 866 and 877 numbers. All came from polling firms or other political organizations.
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Lies, damn lies and politicians

My cell phone started ringing before I stopped for my morning coffee in downtown Floyd Tuesday. When I got to the studio, several voice mails awaited. Even more would be waiting at home. Amy said the phone started ringing early. She looked at the caller ID on the first call and saw it was The New York Times and went back to sleep.
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Chicken-fried racism

Hypocrisy is a given with most politicians but few practice it as blatantly as Virginia Sen. George Allen, who embraces Southern racism as though it were a birthright.

That hypocrisy shone brightly recently when Allen insulted a native-born Virginian of Indian descent by calling him "macaca" at a campaign rally. "

"This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is. He’s with my opponent," Allen said, referring to S.R. Sidarth, a campaign worker for Democratic challenger Jim Web. "Let’s give a welcome to macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."

"Macaca" is a slang racial slur used to insult people of color. It can mean "monkey" or, in worse cases, "shithead."

Sidarth should have been "welcoming" Allen to Virginia. He was born in the Old Dominion.

Allen was born in Los Angeles. Yet Allen likes to wrap himself up as a "Virginian," one from a part of the past that best left forgotten. A Confederate battle flag flies in the Senator’s office.

Some years ago, while still living in Northern Virginia, I went to a cookout in McLean sponsored by Virginia Republicans. A group of "good old boys" stood by the beer table, laughing their butts off at an unending string of racist jokes told by one of their group – then political wannabe George Allen.

Allen represents a side of Virginia politics that is best forgotten and there are still too many chicken-fried racists like him holding down positions of power in our midst. Like Morgan Griffith of Salem, the Majority Leader of the House of Delegates.

Griffith jumped to Allen’s defense when the Senator committed his racist gaffe, telling The Washington Post that "not many people in southwest Virginia would think (Allen calling Sidarth ‘macaca’) is derogatory. I didn’t have a clue what it meant, and I doubt Allen did, either."

Speak for yourself, Morgan. Your comments might play well at the Klan rallies at Burnt Chimney down in Franklin County but those gatherings, like you, do not represent the majority of modern Virginians.

You may be a dumbass Southern bigot but don’t try to wrap the rest of us up into your mantle of good-old-boy racism. I’m one Southwestern Virginian who knows exactly what "macaca" means and I think any elected official who uses such a word to describe a Virginian should be voted out of office.

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Claim jumpers

Whenever something remotely newsworthy occurs in Floyd County, you can be sure politicians who had nothing to do with the event jump in and try to claim credit.

We saw this happen this week when the county announced the deal with Arrow Trucks Sales of the Volvo Group to set up a truck component remanufacturing facility in the Branwick Center.
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Driveway, thy name is mud

We’ve lost the battle of the driveway at Chateau Thompson. Foot-deep gullies cris-cross the lower part and too much of our rock now resides in the ravine off one side.

The hard rains of this Spring and Summer were too much for the slurry mix that stood up so well last year. An extra coating we added in May is all but washed away.

We will need time to work on the driveway but with rain in the forecast today that time will have to wait.

Good thing we own Jeeps.Continue Reading

Hard habit to break

When we decided to leave the Washington area and move to Floyd County fulltime I made a foolish promise to stop writing about politics, an issue that has dominated my journalistic life for more than 40 years.

Foolish because politics is an addiction worse than any drug, a substance abuse problem that cannot be licked. One cannot walk away from politics. It is too ingrained into our society, sapping the body politic (pun intended) of all strength, of all vitality, of all purpose.
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The wisdom of Edward R. Murrow

I have always been a fan of the late Edward R. Murrow, the crusading CBS newsman who took on the fanatical Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy when no one else in the broadcast news business had the guts to do so.

That battle cost Murrow dearly. CBS, weary of the many controversies caused by Murrow’s award-winning “See it Now” television news magazine, caved to pressure and exiled the show to a Sunday time slot. Murrow’s prime-time appearances were limited to his celebrity interviews, which he hated but admitted he did to “pay the bills.”

In 1958, Murrow appeared before the Radio-TV News Directors Association and delivered a stinging indictment of TV’s aversion to controversy. Parts of the speech were used to lead and end George Clooney’s excellent film, Good Night and Good Luck.

For example:

Our history will be what we make it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black and white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live. I invite your attention to the television schedules of all networks between the hours of 8 and 11 p.m., Eastern Time. Here you will find only fleeting and spasmodic reference to the fact that this nation is in mortal danger. There are, it is true, occasional informative programs presented in that intellectual ghetto on Sunday afternoons. But during the daily peak viewing periods, television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live. If this state of affairs continues, we may alter an advertising slogan to read: LOOK NOW, PAY LATER.

For surely we shall pay for using this most powerful instrument of communication to insulate the citizenry from the hard and demanding realities which must be faced if we are to survive. I mean the word survive literally. If there were to be a competition in indifference, or perhaps in insulation from reality, then Nero and his fiddle, Chamberlain and his umbrella, could not find a place on an early afternoon sustaining show. If Hollywood were to run out of Indians, the program schedules would be mangled beyond all recognition. Then some courageous soul with a small budget might be able to do a documentary telling what, in fact, we have done–and are still doing–to the Indians in this country. But that would be unpleasant. And we must at all costs shield the sensitive citizens from anything that is unpleasant.

I am entirely persuaded that the American public is more reasonable, restrained and more mature than most of our industry’s program planners believe. Their fear of controversy is not warranted by the evidence. I have reason to know, as do many of you, that when the evidence on a controversial subject is fairly and calmly presented, the public recognizes it for what it is–an effort to illuminate rather than to agitate.

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Determining what sucks…and not doing it

When we moved to Floyd County, we divested ourselves of most of our business interests so I could concentrate on photography and have the time so Amy and I could enjoy life.

One of the businesses I kept was a scaled-down web hosting operation from the company I started in 1994. Over the years we built a successful operation hosting business, organization and news web sites for those with computer savvy. We also used our various hosting platforms to develop web sites and other Internet-related products.
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The month from hell

Just call this the week from hell. Actually, it was the month from hell. Server crashes plus configuration problems on a new server this week brought just about everything to a halt.

The trash bin in the back of our data center is littered with the remnants of servers that didn’t work as promised and hard drives corrupted by viruses and worms because a virus program also didn’t work as it should have.
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Tempus fugit

Somewhere, in one of the boxes that that lurk in a closet of Chateau Thompson, lies a brochure from an investment firm promoting the “joys and relaxation” of retirement.

If I had the energy I’d find that brochure and burn it.

At some point, in 2004, I remember saying we moved to Floyd County to “relax and retire.”

I’m sure I said it.

At least I think I did.

My “to do” list Thursday contained 14 items. I got to five of them before collapsing on the couch and sleeping for the next seven hours.
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A danger zone called blogging

You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension – a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into the Blog Zone!

My apologies to Rod Serling’s memory for stealing one of the openings to his classic TV show The Twilight Zone but it seems, at times, like we’ve entered just that when it comes to the subject of blogging.
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Sharks to the left, sharks to the right

Well, not sharks actually but bloggers. Lots of bloggers. David St. Lawrence, the project-manager-to-the-world, organized a meeting of area bloggers at Cafe del Sol today and I’m sitting here in the midst of all these cyber opinion makers, listening to discussions of trackbacks, cascading stylesheets and whatnot.
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Pain

“Pain,” a sadistic Navy master chief once yelled at me, “is only the beginning.”

Pain has a way of becoming part of your life. A rambunctious youth and too many broken bones left me with severe arthritis, a number of joints that don’t work as well as they should, and some non-OEM replacement parts that don’t quite live up to manufacturer’s claims.
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Again?

Logged onto the computer and found Weatherbug flashing that ominous “alert” sign. High wind warnings, it said, in force until 6 p.m. Winds expected to reach 50 miles per hour.

Incredible. We still haven’t cleaned up all the mess from the bluster of the weekend.

Not a good morning to try and write about the idyllic life in the country.Continue Reading

And they call the wind…damned irritating

The wind howled today. It roared up our hillside like a deranged Norse god, spitting, snarling and hissing at the world, screaming through the trees at speeds of 60 mph and more (our wind dial peaked at 74 mph in late afternoon).

Limbs, stripped of their moorings, rattled against our house like Huns storming the castle. Whitecaps appeared in our hot tub and I wondered at one point if the whirling water would spark a tsunami to flood our back porch.

According to the talking heads this hurricane wannabe will be with us until 6 a.m. Sunday.
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Smoke rings

Jim Echols, the city editor when I joined the staff of The Roanoke Times in 1965, put the role of a reporter in perspective.

“We blow smoke rings,” he said. “When we blow a good one people look at it and go ‘wow, look at that.’ Then it disappears and they forget about it and move on.”

Years later, Elmer Broz, another city editor at another paper, said it differently.
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Gadflies

Every town I’ve lived in has its gadflies, those who challenge the status quo but do so in a way that angers even those who might agree that the status quo needs a challenge or two.

In Floyd, the gadflies are Dennis and Linda Wagner, two transplants who hit town about seven years ago, restoring a large historic house on Main Street, and managing to find a way to alienate just about everyone they come in contact with.
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