What Kathy Griffin Did Was Dead Wrong (So To Speak)

Kathy Griffin: No, this is not OK.

My brother, Paul, a small business owner whose politics trend to the right of mine (by a good bit) just asked me in a text message what I thought–and what those who follow my blog think–about Kathy Griffin holding up a bloody fake head of Donald Trump.

I told him I thought it was atrocious, inappropriate and wrong. That simply is not acceptable behavior, regardless of who engages in it. She’s a 56-year-old comedian, one known for low blows and easy, crude laughs and I’ve never given her a second thought until now. I equate her more to Rush Limbaugh than to Mitch McConnell, but the graphic is still horrific.

Some of our fringe nutjobbies on the left and the right get inspiration from those willing to suspend taste and good sense and say for all to hear what they fantasize. I’m sure as many on the left have had thoughts of Trump’s untimely death as those on the right had those thoughts about Obama. Neither was right.

I will not, however, equate what an unhinged comedian did with the call for shooting liberals from Republican officials–men (nearly all of them; and white, of course) who were elected to represent Americans of all stripes. They have called ICE on peaceful brown-skinned protesters, suggested protesters should be punished by death, suggested Democratic opponents be shot, urged that Republicans “pop” (shoot) members of CNN and on and on–a significant ansd official litany of abuse.

Ann Coulter (a Republican comedian–how else to explain her?–and not elected to anything) suggested the New York Times be bombed. I didn’t take that seriously any more than I take Kathy Griffin seriously, but it was a stupid statement without the gravity of an official statement.

In a nutshell: Yes, Paul, Kathy Griffin was wrong and she has apologized. My guess is that her career trajectory will take an immediate downward turn. That is deserved. I don’t approve of what she did and those on my side–by a huge margin–don’t either.

Another Cutback at Roanoke’s Daily Paper

The MainStream 80: A lot of press; a lot of expense.

When former Publisher Wendy Zomparelli opted in 2003 to spend $36 million with Heidelberg for its new MainStream 80 press, one that had its own free-floating concrete floor detached from a large building, there were skeptics. That free-floating floor would keep it from shaking the building off its foundations but the lack of reliability and the huge costs over the years has taken a toll.

The press never lived up to expectations and these days, I’m told, printing the paper in Roanoke is horrendously expensive. So, the paper will move its printing and mailing out of town–Lynchburg for the former and Richmond the latter. Those cities both have newspapers owned by the same company that owns the Roanoke Times, BH Media.

The MainStream 80 The Times owns was the second one sold (the other in Montreal). The Times was the only U.S. buyer (though the press was made in New Hampshire) and there were only 10 sold in five countries, according to press reports.

Publisher Terry Jamerson made the announcement today to the staff, saying 16 full-time and 33 part-time jobs will be lost. Those jobs will be in the press room, in mailing and, perhaps, other areas. The Times, like so many American newspapers, has been hemorrhaging jobs for years and in the last couple of months trimmed several with its cutback in zoned editions (five times a week to three in the New River Valley, for example, and eliminating SoSalem).

Jamerson says The Times will be printed in Lynchburg at the News & Advance and inserts will be moved to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.”God knows what this will do to our deadlines,” a Times reporter told me today. (The RT, as far as I know, has but one edition. When I began working there in the 1970s, we had five and by 1981, when I left, we still had four.)

The Lynchburg paper also does commercial printing. Jamerson did not say if The Times would pay the News & Advance to print its publications. They are both owned by BH Media, Warren Buffett’s company.

The Times’ story says, “No decision has been made about the future of the production building at the corner of Salem Avenue and Second Street.”

It also assures that delivery times will not be affected, although they have been quite an issue of late. Jamerson wrote that “the change is not expected to affect subscriber delivery times. … We owe it to our readers to ensure reliable, dependable delivery of a quality newspaper for years to come.”

Trump’s FCC Allows TV News Power Grab

Sinclair Media Group, which owns WSET-TV in Lynchburg, has just purchased WGN’s 42 stations, consolidating power for this right-wing mouthpiece and defender of Donald Trump. Sinclair’s reputation among reputable journalists is at best shaky, at worst in the toilet.

The purchase of the group, based in Chicago, was enabled by Trump, whose “FCC commissioner [rolled] back a regulation designed to prevent excessive media consolidation,” according to a report by Joe Strupp of Media Matters (Salon report here).

Sinclair owns stations in the Norfolk area, Richmond and two in Bristol, which it purchased in April. It owns the largest independent stations in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. WGN is a “superstation” that serves a number of markets. Many of Sinclair’s holdings are in swing states like Virginia.

Perhaps the most disturbing element in this power grab is that Trump’s FCC suspended a key element of media law that prevents consolidation to the point that one owner dominates a market. That is in place to prevent consolidations just such as this.

A Short Hike and a New Friend

My new pal, met on the trail.

This is what my snake buddy was looking for.

The rain has been such a hovering threat for the past few days that it’s smart to have a Plan B when we go out, but today I didn’t. I just went for a hike and damn the torpedos.

I heard a lot of rumbling thunder and saw a lot of bugs (as well as a sizeable blacksnake), but it was quiet and relaxing.

Here are some photos.

A wide angle look at the trail.

Me as a mosaic. Cute, huh?

An Unfair Employment Advantage for U.S. Military Veterans

Government Business Council report.

I continue to find the treatment of America’s veterans disturbing, but not for the reasons many would cite. Their preference in federal and state government hiring is at an absurd level and the entire Veterans Administration medical system is huge, unnecessary duplicate expense, which Medicare for all would render obsolete in a heartbeat.

Gregory Lewis of The Conversation writes about an exhaustive study on government favoritism in hiring veterans–which in some states all but excludes non-veterans until the vets run out–here (and here for another look) his conclusion is a smidge less harsh than mine. He finds that the hiring goals lead to a lack of diversity. Well, certainly that. But my guess is that it often leads to an inefficiency in filling jobs with people less qualified to do them than some non-veterans (who are not as white, not as male).

This is like union seniority–a point that I have always found distasteful about  unions–in that it puts people in favored positions for reasons having nothing at all to do with their qualifications. This is a point conservatives often argue … until it comes to hiring vets.

I will say that disabled vets should get job training–depending on their injury and their job preference and aptitude–once they’ve finished rehab.

Military veterans have some qualifications and often have superb skills–especially those in computers and leadership among ex-officers. Some, however, have military skills (sniper, for example) that have nothing to do with the job they want with the government, but they are given strong preference for those jobs over people who have worked and paid for expensive education to have good qualifications.

Government jobs often pay well, with solid benefits and they are a preference of many. They provide a level of security and stability for families.

Today’s military veteran is a volunteer. He is not a Vietnam draftee or a World War II private who joined because our nation was directly attacked. He joined because he wanted to, for whatever reason. He was not compelled.

By joining, he gets medical care for the rest of his life while non-veterans must either pay high premiums themselves or get jobs with great bennies. Or go without, as is often the case (and likely will be more so under a Republican administration).

Those of you who argue that veterans are defending our country in the same way their grandfathers did are deluding yourselves. They are primarily defending the wealth of the rich, helping the United States to suppress poor countries with different religions and cultures than ours and maintaining our warring culture, which kills our kids, empties our treasury and divides our population into camps. And for what?

(Graphic: govexec.com.)

Happy Birthday, Early in the Morn

Christine, reflecting on turning “double nickles.”

Today my friend Christine Ward turned, what she calls, “double nickles” and to celebrate, we did an early morning paddle at placid, lovely, deep green Carvins Cove.

It was a beautiful paddle with my beautiful friend, who has been that for more than 17 years now. Here’s a pictorial homage to her.


Festival City No More? Roanoke’s Sliding

The stands at the amphitheater were mostly empty today.

This fetching young ballerina is a recent high school graduate.

There’s been rumbling about attendance at Roanoke’s many festivals this spring and it has not been optimistic. Whether it was the Strawberry Festival, the Chili Festival, last week’s Local Colors or this weekend’s Festival in the Park, the focus of the conversations has been smaller crowds and dramatically reduced vendor participation.

I missed Local Colors last week, but have been to each of the others and have noted a distinct decline in what former Mayor Noel Taylor liked to call the Festival City. In the short distant past, you could count on huge crowds in downtown Roanoke in May and June on weekends, but now the crowds are mostly at the Farmer’s Market, buying veggies and plants for the garden.

There was plenty of music at the festival.

Today’s first jaw-dropper was about half the usual number of antique cars, then the reduced number of vendors going into Elmwood Park. Winding up the hill toward the library, the food vendors were busy, but there were only a few. On the hill, itself, there appeared to be a reduction in vendors of about half.

I don’t know what this is about. I speculated to a good friend last week–one who lives Local Colors and was lamenting its demise–that Donald Trump’s scary efforts to round up foreign nationals probably affected both attendance and participation there. But that doesn’t explain the reduction in the other festivals.

If you have an idea, offer it up.

This 1959 Cadillac represented the peak of the craze for fins on cars.

This quartet is from Roanoke Children’s Theatre, which is on tour with a recent show.

Colorful dresses on sale.

This woody is a 1929 Ford and it’s gorgeous (check the wooden wheels).

This youngster is getting prettied-up with henna.

The foam machine nearly buried some of the kids. This one came prepared.

Some of the fun was quiet.

Ballerinas are cheaper by the dozen (and twice as pretty).

White gloves, shades and fuzzy dice inside this 1956 Thunderbird, a real classic.

Steam punk Elivs. Legit.

Not everybody enjoyed the festival.

Roanoke showed off its new homage to European sophistication: rental bicycles on the Market. Yay!

For Us and the Bees: Organic Teas

If you’re diabetic, try Stevia as your sweetener.

LeeAnn Seeley.

LeeAnn Seeley is a welcome new addition to the farming community of the Roanoke Valley and the Farmer’s Market downtown. Here is Happy Bee Herbs and LeeAnn specializes in small plants and herbal teas.

LeeAnn was on the market today and my friend Christine Ward was there with her, learning how to run the stall because she’ll be doing that next week.

LeeAnn is delightful, knowledgeable and has some truly appealing teas, including the peach that I bought. There is a wide variety on sale and I also picked up the stevia, which I use instead of sugar. I tried growing some and drying it a couple of years and was successful up to the point where I wasn’t. LeeAnn’s looks good.

Go see her on the market. You’ll enjoy chatting with her, I predict.


An Obsessive Hatred of Fair Reporting

The body slam Wednesday of a reporter the eve of a Montana  election–in which the GOP candidate did the slamming–likely had no effect on the outcome of the election because most Montana voters had already voted by that time. Frankly, I’m not sure it would have changed the outcome regardless of when they voted. Greg Gianforte won Montana’s House special election defeating Democrat Rob Quist by 7 percentage points.

Montana is a GOP state and kicking the crap out of somebody in public–especially a hated news media representative (even one representing the British press)–is a show of the kind of “manliness” that Montanans like. If the reporter had been a woman, I suspect, the slam would have been doubly manly. And if a gun had been used? Off the charts.

The governor of Texas, meanwhile, showing his prowess with a gun, threatened reporters with a head shot if he saw any of them. A GOP voter in Montana told a female CNN reporter, somebody should “pop” the media. “Pop” means shoot.

Donald Trump has been bullying the media for quite a while now, setting the standard that these angry GOP “victims” just love. Anne Coulter once proposed that somebody should blow up the NYTimes.

I don’t see it going away, even when Trump’s gone–as he almost certainly will be before he expects it. The dye is cast. The GOP hates the media and until all media is Fox, it will continue to do so. “Fair and balanced” reporting is the very last thing in the world the GOP wants. It would be destroyed by that.


Dog Poo for Fun and Profit

Mike Sinnott with his cleanup truck.

A few days ago, I spotted a sign on a truck that read “DogScapes.” Upon closer examination, I deduced that the business was one specializing in cleaning up dog poop. And I was right.

About 20 years Mike Sinnott saw a guy cleaning dog poop from his neighbors’ yards—professionally–and thought, “This guy is an idiot. In a Will Ferrell way.” Until recently, he had not thought about that man or his profession.

Mike Sinnott cleans a yard of dog poo.

But a day came when he needed a way to supplement his day job in law enforcement (he doesn’t want to be more specific than that) and picking up dog do-do didn’t seem quite so idiotic. In fact, it made sense: low overhead (bucket, rake, a few chemicals), light workload, outside job with dogs—which he likes. Not much of a downside.

So, he went looking and found out that DogScapes is a franchise that does just what he has in mind. That was less than a year ago and he’s slowly getting established in Roanoke.

He cleans individual yards and those for apartment complexes, charging a base $48 a month (four visits) for one dog and $9 for each additional dog. No cats yet. “Bigger dogs are easier,” he says, “because their waste is easier to find.” He searches the yard in a grid, but finding the poo is sometimes like “finding shell casings at a shooting range.”

It’s a job he can perform year-round and not interfere with his profession and it’s one the 50-year-old Kansas native likes.

You can reach him at 540-797-5792.