Friday, February 27, 2009

The Up Side of a Stroke

This boat by Bill Gee has both Virginia Tech and Virginia colors and emblems for the confused>

It wouldn't be much of a boat show without a boat builder and at the Southwest Virginia Boat Show at the Roanoke Civic Center tonight that distinction was Bill Gee's. Bill's an aging old salt with one good arm, obvious stroke residue and some other physical distortions, but an iron will that would speak well to his wooden ships.

Bill, a Navy veteran of two unpopular wars--Korea and Vietnam where he didn't suffer physically, but later saw the emotional damage--has picked up quite a skill and quite a marketing device in his dotage. He not only builds these nice sailing ships at his home in Roanoke, but he builds them in team colors.

No, really. Team colors.

West Virginia Mountaineers: blue and yellow. University of Viriginia: blue and orange. Virginia Tech: orange and maroon. Pittsburgh Steelers: black and gold. Roanoke College, Army, Navy, University of Tennessee, Liberty University and on and on. He'll make one for you custom, even in the ridiculous orange and green of the University of Miami if you so choose.

Bill's pretty proud of himself for doing this one-handed. "When I had the stroke," he says, "doctors told me I'd never walk again, never work again, never do this, never do that. I was building these boats in no time. I don't think I'd have ever gotten around to it without the stroke."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Right-Wing Bailout Funds Available

On the way over to Lynchburg today, I was stuck alone with the radio ("Oh, God!" I thought, "not that!") and I sneaked the dial over to the talk station, avoiding the public radio fund drive, sports talk and some really, really bad Top 40 of various types. I picked up, first a guy named Bortz and then the grating, high-pitched, snarling, slobbering rantings of somebody named Laura Ingram where I found a nice little irregularity.

These right-wingers were all over the Obama economic package--screaming "socialism" at every opportunity--but it wasn't what they said that moved me. It was what one of their sponsors said. One of their most persistent was a company that was trying to attract customers who had a problem with maxed-out or overdrawn credit cards. They offered to help these people qualify for individual bailout money from the Obama plan.

I don't even know where to go with that.

The First (Not American) Car

Charles and Frank Duryea's first American car (below) in 1896 and the Benz car in 1886 (right)>

When my pal Barack Obama talked the other night about saving carmakers "in the country that invented the automobile" he may have stretched the truth a bit, depending on whom you ask.

Everyday Mysteries
, a good Web site that answers questions believeably, says the car "dates to the 15th Century when Leonardo da Vinci was creating designs and models for transport vehicles." But, it says, "If we had to give credit to one inventor, it would probably be Karl Benz from Germany. Many suggest that he created the first true automobile in 1885-1886."

EM says the first steamer came in 1769 in France; the first electric in 1832-1839 in Scotland; Benz's three-wheel, four-cycle gas-powered model as mentioned; Gottlieb Wilhelm Daimler's gas engine in Germany in 1886; George Baldwin Selden's gas-powered car patented, but never built, in 1895 in the U.S.; Charles Edgar Duryea and his brother, Frank's four horsepower, two stroke engine American car in 1893, which was, indeed, built.

The Duryea brothers, like the Wright Brothers, who invented the airplane 10 years later, were bicycle builders. They built and tested their motorized buggy in Springfield, Mass., and that evolved into the Duryea Motor Wagon Company in 1896. They produced cars until the 1920s.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Republican Target: Tom Perriello

If you think the Republican Party wasn't caught completely off guard by Tom Perriello's stunning victory over Virgil Goode in November's Congressional elections, look again. The national party is sponsoring campaign-style ads in this market blasting Perriello for supporting "Nancy Pelosi's" bailout legislation (they don't dare attack President Barack Obama, whose popularity is higher than any Repub since Reagan).

Fact is, the attack--done in some truly dim-witted, low-brow ads that look like they were made in somebody's garage and featuring the boys from the corner bar--goes after Perriello for some of the strongest and most popular parts of the bill, the parts that create jobs and help people directly. Even the criticisms that sound legit are so twisted that you'd never recognize them in the bill.

My guess is that Perriello terrified them and they want to get started early trying to soften him up for the next election. Perriello was recently named one of the Huffington Post's "hottest five" new members of Congress, both Democrats and Repubs. He's one of two Virginians on the list, the other 34-year-old Glenn Nye of Virginia Beach. Perriello is 35 and a former poverty lawyer who helped overthrow former African despot Charles Taylor, the kind of "war hero" I can appreciate. Compare that to George Bush's manly resume of cutting brush with a chain saw.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

An Altogether Pleasant Evening

I was ready to hate Outback Steakhouse tonight. I'd tried to eat in that din several times in the past, but could never get in without waiting half my life. Tonight, though, there wasn't any choice. My brother, Sandy, had given Christina and me a gift certificate and with my son's family in town, I thought this would be a good time to spend it.

We expected a long wait up front, even though we'd called ahead--at Outback's direction--to say we were coming with eight people (in-laws included). But, truth be told, there wasn't much of a wait and the young women herding the crowd were pleasant, professional and, frankly, a delight. Same with our waitress. The food was above average--as steakhouse food goes--and everybody seemed happy. My four-year-old granddaughter had a nap before dinner and even she was on her best behavior.

I am genuinely surprised that the evening was as good as it did because I have little fondness for chain restaurants and the huge, loud crowds that frequent them. Maybe I'd do well to re-evaluate. The crowds are there for a reason (and judging from the bill, it's not the price).

Picking a Reptile for the Commonwealth

There was quite a bit of snarky conversation generated by our esteemed state legislators yesterday about the naming of a state reptile. Seems the Eastern Box Turtle, whom we all know well from catching them as kids, wasn't quite up to the standards of those old boys who wanted something that "doesn't pull in its head and hide at the first sign of trouble." They wanted, I suppose, a fighting turtle, like the University of Maryland's. Fear the Turtle.

In any case, they missed the obvious choice for Virginia's State Reptile: The Doughy-cheeked Morgan Griffith.

Let 'Em Breathe Smoke

OK, I understand how repetition can become boring, but this is just ridiculous. Once again a Virginia House of Delegates committee has killed a public health bill--this time protecting children--after overwhelming Senate support, without even letting the bill go to the floor for a hearing.

This time it was Sen. Ralph Northam's (D-Norfolk, a pediatric neurologist) bill that would disallow smoking in a car where children are riding. The Senate had passed the bill 30-10, but the Republican-dominated House looked out for the welfare of the tobacco barons. Pro-life my ass.

If you think this is an exercise in picking on Republicans, consider that two Senate-generated bills that were approved by the House Friday (as reported by The Roanoke Times) came from Roanoke area senators John Edwards, a Democrat, and Ralph Smith, a Republican. Smith's bill would require that children K-12 be instructed in the benefits of marriage, in essence the state taking over the role of parent. Edwards' bill would protect the citizens of Virginia from the toxins in coal fly ash, a role the state should have. Public health vs. one man's morality. It's a simple matter of priority. Not to mention good sense.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Movie Bill on the Way

Bud Oakey's General Assembly post today reports that the movie bill we've written about a couple of times in this space seems to be moving toward some success (and one would not predict complete success for anything worthwhile with this group of legislators). Bud's post is here if you missed it on the front page of this blog.

In a nutshell, the bill would give incentives for movies to locate in Virginia. The issue came up recently when novelist Sharyn McCrumb of Roanoke County was hoping to get her book The Rosewood Casket produced in Virginia and not North Carolina or Georgia, which were making a big push with financial incentives.

Even When Ralph Smith's Right, He's Wrong

Roanoke's State Senator, Ralph Smith, has never been known as the sharpest pencil in the box, nor has he ever claimed that status. He talks about being a "plain" man and that's about the size of it. As mayor of Roanoke, he was an undisputed disaster, but he moved to Botetourt County where sharp pencils don't seem to be a requirement and won his Senate seat away from one of the few Republicans in our region who was doing a good job.

Today Smith has defined the Republican Party in Virginia for us by using some of his "plain English." When a bill introduced addressing college students' voting rights went down 6-0 in a House of Delegates committee (where all good things go to die), he said (this from The Roanoke Times): "Since college students tend to vote more on the other side of the aisle than they do on my side of the aisle, I think politics probably did play a part" in the vote.

OK, there it is. No more BS about the "good of the Commonwealth," "philosophical differences," "the people of Virginia." It's about party politics pure and simple. We'll keep that in mind, Ralph. Thank you for your plain speaking.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

70 Years Old and Brand New

I've seen "My Fair Lady" half a dozen times and even took a shot at reading Bernard Shaw's play, Pygmalion, but I wasn't aware of a movie made of this marvelous work before the 1964 musical with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn (one of my heroes).

Tonight I ran into the 1939 "Pygmalion" (buy the DVD or video here) with a pre-"Gone With the Wind" Leslie Howard and the wondrous stage actress Wendy Hiller. The movie won an Oscar for Shaw's screenplay, featuring sparkling dialogue and both Hiller and Howard were nominated as lead actors. This movie was not a musical ("My Fair Lady" was, of course) and, frankly, I think it is far, far stronger than the '64 version.

This is not a light, sentimental romantic comedy, though the dialogue is occasionally brilliantly comedic. Howard is an imposing, intimmidating bully, callously "creating" his masterpiece in Eliza Doolittle. Hiller is tough, street-smart and vulnerable as Liza and ultimately Howard's equal, despite the rigid British social stratification.

Perhaps my favorite character in this version is that of Liza's father, Doolittle, the rhoguish, amoral opportunist who ultimately strikes it rich by being himself. He is played by the very funny Wilifrid Larson.

This represents a lot of words for a 70-year-old movie, but let me assure it is worth every minute of your time.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Media General Copies Rke Times

Media General, which owns a significant number of newspapers in Virginia, both large and small, has taken a page from The Roanoke Times' Making Layoffs Fair book: it will furlough employees 10 days this year. Those not in a union will be required to take the 10 unpaid days and union members will be asked to take them in order to avoid layoffs.

MG, which owns WSLS-TV in Roanoke and the Lynchburg News-Advance in this area (as well as some weekly papers), has seen its stock tank in recent months. The furloughs, stretched over months, as The Times has done, seems to me to be the most equitable way to share the pain and give the company a shot. The company hopes to save $28 million with this action in concert with a suspension of 401(k) match and dividends.

Meanwhile, in the real world, Playboy Enterprises, facing a $156 million loss last year (even sex is off, it seems) talking about talking about selling itself. Would that be like prostitution, maybe? Awwww, not so much. Wonder if it'll affect Uncle Hef's babes? That would be a true tragedy.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

That Wacky General Assembly-Part Deux

House Speaker William Howell (left) with Salem Del. Morgan Griffith: Two principal House blockages>

It is simply astonishing that four addle-brained Republicans in Virginia's House of Delegates can trump the entire Senate and, no doubt, a huge majority of people in the House with simple bull-headed, partisan ignorance. But we have a prime example of it for you today, troops.

After the Senate voted 39-0 to create a bi-partisan commission to create new districts based on the changing census, a house committee voted 4 Republicans to 2 Democrats to kill the bill without even sending it to the House floor. That's a 4-41 victory for partisan stalemate.

Gerrymandering is and has been a disgrace in Virginia. Two examples will do: former Republican Gov. George Allen was drawn right out of his district by Democrats when he was in the General Assembly. He ran for governor. The rest is a sad part of history. Later, after the Republicans took over the House they put two of the most effective representatives this region has ever had--Dick Cranwell and Chip Woodrum--in the same district. Cranwell didn't run again. Woodrum, having been thoroughly marginalized by vengence-motivated leadership and stripped of his committee memberships, decided he'd had enough. We all lost with that.

My guess is that Salem's Morgan Griffith, who strongly supported killing the Senate's vote, saying he had issues with who'd pick the panel, is likely to be a victim of gerrymandering from the Democratic-controlled Senate when re-districting takes place. Nothing would please me more.

Meanwhile, another House subcommittee is hell-bent on weakening a bill that would severely restrict smoking in restaurants. Republicans again. I didn't need to tell you that, though.

'The Biology Lesson' at Studio Roanoke

Studio Roanoke is moving into full production of a play called "The Biology Lesson." Rehearsals begin April 4 and it opens April 28, running through May 3. The cast includes 13 women of a variety of ages and ethnicities.

The theater's grand opening is scheduled for May with a Ben Williams play called "Ant Farm," which was originially scheduled to be part of the Norfolk Southern Festival at Mill Mountain Theatre.

There is some question about whether the Campbell Avenue studio (formerly New York Fashions, the zoot suit store) will be fully ready, but, hey, it's theater. It's supposed to be tough.

You will remember Studio Roanoke from two previous posts: Dec. 11 and Feb. 8. This is promising.
Poster by Lee Moyer^

Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself

Barack Obama on the Republican opposition to his economic plan and a lack of bipartisan support: "I have to say that given that they were running the show for a pretty long time prior to me getting there, and that their theory was tested pretty thoroughly and it’s landed us in the situation where we’ve got over a trillion-dollars’ worth of debt and the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression, I think I have a better argument in terms of economic thinking.” NYTimes.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Death of a Retail Giant

I always liked Sidney Weinstein and this is to note his passing. Sidney, who was 87 when he died of pulmonary disease Sunday, was the classic mid-century innovative business professional, a man ahead of his time in a way that made him successful with his clientelle.

Sidney, for whom his father's retail store was named (Sidney's), was one of the first retailers--or maybe business people of any kind--in this region to offer women credit without having a co-signer. If you were in college or had a job, Sidney would float you, as he would have any man. This was at a time when women wore white gloves, pill-box hats, hose and chastity belts (that last part is from my own experience). It was a time of Mom and Dad and Biff and Buffy and a kind of smothering conservatism brought on by the baby-boom Eisenhower years and rebelled against by the boomers themselves in the 1960s.

Sidney and his wife, Ann, were above that, beyond that, away from that. They were afficionados of the art scene, cultured people with a deep, wide generous streak and an appreciation for beauty at any level. Sidney's black and white, single model ads on the back of the Roanoke Times Spectator section were a staple in the region's advertising repertoire. I worked around those ads for a couple of years as Spectator's designer and I always looked forward to seeing what lovely would adorn that page--and the lovelies were young local girls, photographed attractively and tastefully.

Sidney's was one of the first truly prominent downtown icons that became a victim of the Wal-Mart-ization of our culture. It filed bankruptcy in 1991 and finally closed in 1993. The stores had opened in 1922 and Sidney had taken his father's idea and expanded it greatly, employing 700 people in 81 stores at the peak. My wife Christina actually had her first job as a teenager--other than babysitting--there.

Mostly, though, those who knew Sidney knew a man with a dry, cutting sense of humor--often bordering on the dark, but always a bit light to the touch. And he was a good man.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Public Broadcasting's Urgent Cry (Wolf)

Blue Ridge Public Television has shouted its nearly annual "wolf" as the Virginia House of Representatives once again tries to separate its Republican self from all things public about our electronic media. The Repubs have a couple of issues with public broadcasting: they perceive it to be liberal, they are philosophically opposed to supporting liberal causes.

The first assumption was reached because public broadcasting is not talk radio and the rest of it follows pretty neatly. Right-wing columnist Michelle Malkin recently railed against public broadcasting asking to be included in the federal bailout package (it says it can create 18,000 jobs with additional funding), but admitted that much of that request is for tax breaks, not checks-in-the-mail.

Blue Ridge PBS, meanwhile, says the Virginia House would cut $500,000 of its budget, causing the elimination of educational programs to 42 school districts and that new jobs program, "Job Quest" (whose benefit I have yet to see). The Senate says public broadcasting's state money should be reduced 10 percent, which BRPBS says is OK. Our local affiliate says elimination of the money and local programming would put us at the mercy of outside programming (think Clear Channel).

That may be true, but my guess is that the House will fork over some dough, as it always does. The House Repubs are a lot like the block bully who causes dis-ease among his constituents just to show he can and takes great satisfaction when the bullied wring their hands and cry out loud.

Public TV should take a page from Public Radio's book and not act so worried (it could also take a page from the fund-raising book and not try to raise money when "Antiques Road Show" is scheduled to run). NPR gets two percent of its budget from the government and, frankly, if that's gone, the network would survive (and it would likely be even healthier not having to spend all that lobbying money for such a paltry amount of return).

In any case, call Morgan Griffith (the Salem delegate who loves squeezing liberals) and tell him that if he doesn't let loose the purse strings you'll ... you'll ... well, you just don't know what you'll do since you don't live in Salem and can't vote against him. But you'll do something.

The 'White Southern Male Party'

Frank Rich in this a.m.'s NYTimes: "This G.O.P., a largely white Southern male party with talking points instead of ideas and talking heads instead of leaders, is not unlike those 'zombie banks' that we’re being asked to bail out. It is in too much denial to acknowledge its own insolvency and toxic assets. Given the mess the country is in, it would be helpful to have an adult opposition that could pull its weight, but that’s not the hand America has been dealt."

And this: "In the first four years after F.D.R. took over from Hoover, the already decimated ranks of Republicans in Congress fell from 36 to 16 in the Senate and from 117 to 88 in the House. The G.O.P. is so insistent that the New Deal was a Mirage it may well have convinced itself that its own sorry track record back then didn't happen either."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Girls Scout Cookies Teach Wrong Lessons

This is Girl Scout Cookie season and it's been some years since I've done a good rant about these little morsels, at least in print, so here goes:

Girl Scout Cookies are not a good thing. Aside from being truly awful for you in the age of fat kids, fatter parents and a population caught in the vise of near epidemic Type 2 diabetes, the sale of these cookies teaches children a series of lessons that are invalid, harmful and inappropriate.

I think Girl Scout Cookies must have started differently than they have evolved and, my guess would be that in the early days, most of what the kids learned was good. I see them baking their own cookies, spending time with their mothers and learning a small, useful skill. I envision them going door-to-door, offering these home-baked cookies to their neighbors and accepting some small amount of money in exchange. All of that money would go to their troop and they would feel a sense of accomplishment throughout all of this.

They would learn much: commerce, customer relations, responsibility, product liability and product quality ("You got sick from my cookies? ..."), salesmanship, team dynamics and competition. It was a good thing, but it was a simpler time. The government had no say in this commerce. It did not forbid the girls from baking and selling as it would today. A 501(c)3 tax exemption was not necessary. Police officers did not feel compelled to accompany the girls on rounds because of safety issues.

It was a different world. But the truth is that the sale of Girl Scout Cookies has changed a lot more than it had to. It has been taken over by corporate fund-raisers and the girls are almost out of the equation. Not only don't they bake the cookies, they often don't even sell them. When was the last time you bought a cookie from a kid and not one of her parents--at work?

Parents selling cookies is not the point of this exercise. It is not meant to train parents to sell nor girls to lean upon them to make the sale. It is not about manipulation ("Oh, Daddy, pleeeeeeeeeease ...") or small fragments of the profit going toward the intended purpose of the activity.

I think the process is so far beyond distortion of original purpose (and that wasn't just making money), that it has become its own very different entity. It is an unhealthy pursuit in every sense--from the bad cookies to the bad lessons--and I don't approve, don't participate and scold everybody I have an opportunity to scold when I am approaches.

Generally, if a little girl has the actual ambition to approach my house to make the sale (and I get to the door before Christina does), I will give her $5 and tell her to keep the cookies and put the whole amount toward the goal. I tell her why I don't like Girl Scout Cookie sales (listening to me earns her the $5 and I hope it elicits at least some thought at some later time; she's too embarrassed to think much at the time of delivery).

So there's the rant: don't buy Girl Scout Cookies because the sale of them is bad for everybody involved except the evil fund-raiser that gets most of the money.

The Roanoke Lawyer and Peanutbutter Boy

Peanutbutter Boy's lawyer Andrew Goldstein of Roanoke>

This region's national notoriety continues to blossom today with the bankruptcy filing of Lynchburg's Stewart Parnell, the lovely man whose peanutbutter company appears to have been responsible for 630 sick people (in 44 states) and nine dead ones. Of course, the lawsuits are piling up, the feds are looking at a public boiling of Parnell and he's nervous--as he might well be.

Parnell's lawyer is one Andrew Goldstein of Roanoke--and remember that we all have the right to legal counsel, according to our own constitution, regardless of how morally repugnant we appear to be. Goldstein is a partner in Magee Foster Goldstein and Sayers, a corporate firm that specializes in bankruptcy. Goldstein is a UVa grad who got his J.D. from the University of Bridgeport and earned a master's in tax law from Georgetown U. He is well thought of among his colleagues.

Parnell, of course, is not very well thought of at this moment in his life. Forty seven people are suing him through a Seattle lawyer named Bill Marler, including two relatives of people who died eating salmonella-tainted peanutbutter, allegedly Parnell's company's peanutbutter.

The bankruptcy filing, according to the Washington Post, "will slow the flood of lawsuits against the company, but will not prevent individuals who have been sickened from filing claims." Marler says he intends to have the stay of suits lifted so those affected by the bad peanutbutter can sue.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Where'd That Goofy TV Ad Come From?

There's a series of political advertisements running on television featuring people speaking against the bailout package, using some of the most convoluted logic (not to mention unattractive actors) to make their point. One point is that we must not fund anything that would alter global warming. Another takes a shot against all that green technology that would increase the price of the energy we're using. That reference, I would suppose, would be oil.

The ads are the product of something called Americans for Prosperity, headed by a right-wing zealot named Timothy R. Phillips. tells us that Phillips has ties locally here in Western Virginia. "Before replacing Koch Industries lobbyist Nancy Pfotenhauer as president of Americans for Prosperity, [he] had a long career as a conservative operative. In 1992, Phillips managed Rep. Bob Goodlatte's (R-Va.) first congressional campaign and served as his chief of staff for four years."

Phillips also helped co-found Century Strategies, a PR firm, with Ralph Reed. Forbes Magazine has called Koch Industries "the largest privately owned company in the United States, whose multiple holdings make it a veritable global warming pollution factory."

Keeping Us Informed of Their Misdeeds

A pair of our local congressmen--Democrat Rick Boucher and Republican Bob Goodlatte--who have worked closely on a number of issues (especially technology) are lining up on the side of good news reporting with a new bill they presented today to the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill is the Free Flow of Information Act of 2009 and it deserves to pass because it will help reporters who must protect sources to do with without facing potential jail time. Boucher and Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican, are the bill's co-sponsors, but it has substantial patronage. In the last congress, it advanced on a vote of 398-21, but was not taken up by the Senate.

Boucher explains, "Often the best source of information about public corruption or misdeeds in a large corporation or charity is the person on the inside of the organization who would like to bring the facts to public light. That person has a lot to lose and to avoid punishment at the hands of supervisors will only divulge the information to a reporter if promised confidentiality. If confidentiality cannot be assured, the public may never learn of the wrongdoing and never have the opportunity to take corrective action."
Said Pence, "The time has come for Congress to enact a federal media shield statute. This is not about protecting reporters. It's about protecting the public's right to know. As a conservative who believes in limited government, believe that the only check on government power in real time is a free and independent press.

"The act would provide a qualified privilege to journalists to shield confidential sources from disclosure except in certain situations, such as when our national security is at stake. Ensuring that reporters can keep sources confidential is vital to ensuring the free flow of information to the public.

This is legislation that, like the First Amendment, isn't just about the press. It is about your right to know what your government--or any other public institution--is doing in your name and with your money. It is vital to keep the bearer of the information free of the fear of reprisal. That is the intent of the First Amendment: it is about information flow and understanding how your government works and why.

A government afraid of its citizens wouldn't even consider this legislation. i think passage would be a good sign that maybe these old boys in the halls of Congress think more of us than we imagine.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

But What Was His Name?

My lovely and talented wife, who takes great pride in the well delivered pun, threw one at me tonight that left me shaken and stirred.

We had just heard the story of the little brown dog who had won Westminster at 10--70 in dog years--and Christina started to tell me about a class-winning young poodle.

"He was the product of artificial insimination," she said, "and the semen had been frozen for a decade or so. They call him Pupsicle."

Cleaning Up Our Food Supply

The answer is more inspectors, paid for by the food industry>

Watching television news in the evening can be a wrenching experience. Reading the same news in the NYTimes or another good paper doesn't carry quite the emotion of TV news--and I suspect that's programmed.

Last night I stumbled onto something called "Inside Edition," ostensibly an entertainment news show, but its content was not much different from what we'd just watched Katie Couric deliver: Octomom, Madhoff, hero pilot, A-Rod, executive peanut butter killer, bonus baby bankers, spousal abusing Grammy performer ...

It is simply extraordinary. We've evolved into a nation of emotional midgets, craving the vouyeristic fix of the moment, finding nourishment at the bottom of the human scumpond.

Meanwhile, we're facing some of the most significant problems in the history of our republic and our representatives are playing silly little games involving Washington fiefdoms, disproved political philosophies, gotcha politics of destruction and not much is getting done.

If our legislators are looking for a single, simple accomplishment to put on their resumes--one that would leave a grateful nation--they could improve our food inspection program by spending less than the equivalent of a banker's bonus. I would suggest that the FDA be given taxing authority and that it pull from every food processor, every drug manufacturer, everybody in a position to taint our supply of ingestibles, a small stipend that would result in one inspector for every 100-workers in those plants. They would be on-site full-time and they would be paid by and report to the FDA on a weekly basis.

They would be paid well enough to be incorruptible, but if they were to ever take a bribe, the briber and the bribee would face two years in prison per instance.

We need not be killed by the people feeding us and providing our medicines. We need to trust them, and right now we don't. We don't trust much of anybody after eight years of a Bush Administration that was the consumer's worst nightmare, where profits were far more important than public health and safety.

This little rant has rambled a bit more than I anticipated it would, but there is simply so much to complain about and there are so many readily-available solutions that it borders on maddening to contemplate. What a magnificent mess Bush has left. It boggles the mind.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Fair Shot for Our Own Kids?

Republican Rep. David Albo looking for a loophole>

I swear to God, sometimes the General Assembly in Virginia is just bizarre. Today, in addition to all the waffling on the easy-to-understand public health bills disguised as tobacco legislation, this august body is looking at a proposal from Republican Rep. David Albo* of Fairfax that would charge Virginia students 150 percent tuition if they don't finish college in four years.

Virginia students getting into Virginia colleges is a problem of Bushian proportions now and Albo proposes we solve that by making these Virginia natives finish fast (132 hours in four years) or pay the penalty that out of state students pay to matriculate here. This toad obviously has no idea how most students live. He doesn't understand that the average student gets a degree in a bit more than five years (meaning his final year would cost 150 percent of a tuition rate that is already outrageous for a state university). Students work during school; they have to take semesters off to earn high tuitions; they get sick; their families break up; things happen.

Children of Republican state representatives, I understand, rarely have to come up with money they don't have in order to attend a state university, since they tend to go private and elite--and they get preferences at the best schools whether or not they earn it. Which would help explain why Republican state representatives have for many years consistently chipped away at Virginia's contribution to college education and created tuitions more suited for private schools than public universities. And God forbid anybody should suggest we raise taxes (to where they were in the days when we took responsibility for our kids) in order to help pay for these Virginians' educations.

North Carolina recongizes the value of home-grown graduates. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, my home state appropriated 82 percent more money for higher education in 2008 than did Virginia, spending 64 percent more per student. Are North Carolina students smarter, more valuable, better loved than Virginia students? North Carolina limits out of state enrollment at its universities to 18 percent (and that includes basketball players). Virginia's colleges are letting in upwards of 30 percent from out of state, out of country in our top universities (UVa, 66.6 percent state residents; William and Mary 68.2 ; JMU 70.3 ; Tech 73.6). And the graduate schools? Let's not even go there.

Two other bills in the General Assembly want to limit out of state enrollment to 30 percent and 20 percent. Opponents say passage of either would demand an increase in tuition (at UVa, state students pay about $9,500 a year, out of staters about $30,000). They say it would create a hardship.

Well, sure it would if tuition increase was the only way to raise money for colleges. But it isn't. How about using the lottery for its stated purpose and then raising tobacco taxes to national norms and slightly increasing state income taxes (which are absurdly low anyway) to compensate? We're talking about our kids and the future of Virginia here. They don't graduate and go home to New Jersey or Calcutta.

I'd say my kids are worth it, although both went out of state to school (and paid less tuition even at the higher rate). Aren't yours? Albo doesn't think so.

(*Note: Albo is a Fairfax drunk driving lawyer whose firm, Albo and Oblon, recently hired Salem Del. Morgan Griffith, the outrageously and consistently irresponsible majority leader in the Virginia House, as a partner. He represents rich drunks in this part of the state.)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Plan for the Region's Theater

Musicals have been the enemy of MMT's creativity^

There's a good bit going on in the realm of theater in the Roanoke Valley these days and that is encouraging when you consider that the region's only professional theater plans to close for at least a year.

Mill Mountain Theatre has announced that it will not only close its main stage, but also its alternate, small theater which frequently housed its most interesting offerings. You didn't get the big musicals on the tiny Waldron Stage (Theater B to most of us), but you got Sam Shepard's work, the Norfolk Southern Festival of New Works, Ibsen, Elvis impersonators, David Sadaris (well, his play, anyway) and No Shame Theatre, among many, many more entertaining and thought-provoking entries. MMT plans to rent Theatre B as office space, which is actually a pretty good idea.

It becomes a good idea because Kenley Smith's new Studio Roanoke should be open soon and will present the same kind of fare: exciting, adult, edgy, new. While No Shame Theater creator Todd Ristau has announced he's taking his show to the Hollins stage temporarily, it's a good bet that it will land at Studio Roanoke as soon as that venue is open. Todd is the creative director there (and he teaches theater at Hollins, where some of the best work around has been of late).

I have been asked to take part in discussions about the future of Mill Mountain Theatre and my wife, Christina Koomen, and I have talked about this challenge a good bit in the past few months. She came up with a good list of suggestions that includes the following:
  • A shorter core season.
  • Reduced ticket prices ($75 for two tickets in a city where the median household income is $37,000 makes theater elitist).
  • Improve show selection (if you see a musical kill it, to steal a line from Mark Twain).
  • Do more No Shame Theater presentations at 8 p.m., rather than the normal 11 p.m. if, indeed, NST returns to MMT at all.
  • Re-commit to the festival of new works.
  • Charge a minimal admission fee for Centerpieces, the lunch-time free play that has occasionally been popular in the past (depending on whether people knew about it or not).
  • Supplement crew with unpaid college interns. I think some of the actors could come from the colleges, as well, and we have quite a few good local amateur actors in these parts.
  • Use the space for more than theater (I've suggested weekly movies when plays are not being presented, but Christina talks about "programmable space" for lectures and other crowd-gathering possibilities).
I like the idea of allowing groups other than MMT use the theater, as well. Hollins' "Doubt" and "Caroline or Change" would have been marvelous on the main stage and MMT could have asked for the bulk of admission. My guess is that both would have sold out in a heartbeat. The students and the Hollins University would have simply loved the exposure. It would be good to allow Showtimers, Star City Playhouse and any of the other small, local groups to premier their plays on the big stage and split the house with MMT. That exposes theater to a wider group, gives the big house a great reputation for community involvement and serves us all well.

Something is going to have to be done to make children's theater part of the mix, as well. When Pat Wilhelms was impetuously and unadvisedly fired a while back, she took her successful children's theater program across the street to the new art museum and her very first production made money. There's a lessor or two or three in that.

Building alliances is a necessary part of the reconstruction of the 40-year-old MMT if it is to rise from the ashes. Business people love alliances and so does state government. If you have a group organizing the arts--or even a part of the entire arts community--and being genuinely thoughtful and progressive in the effort, the public perception will be much better than that old cliche of the spoiled brat artists with their hands out. It could be a new day.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Limbaugh-istas and the Economic Problem

I'd like to second columnist Bob Herbert's suggestion that Rush Limbaugh is, in part, responsible for the fact that so many men have lost their jobs in the Republican economy we're suffering at this juncture. The NYTimes reported earlier this week that for the first time the number of men in the workforce in America is about to be passed by the number of working women and, as Herbert says, "not because women have been doing so well, but because men have been doing so poorly."

This is Limbaugh's listeners we're talking about here: white men who hate Democrats and anybody to the left of Ayn Rand and John Burch; the guys who used to be race-baiting Southern Democrats (an oxymoron in those days and often in these days, too); men who shop at Wal-Mart, which is China's fourth-largest export customer; drive the biggest vehicles they can buy, handing gas money to terrorists; smoke in public places, infecting those who don't smoke; wear their beer bellies like championship wrestling belts, burdening our hospital emergency rooms with their heart attacks; and back any war the Repubs want to start by saying they "support the troops." They support welfare for the rich (which they will never be) and hate "welfare queens," though when their jobs disappear--because of their own actions--they're the first to scream bloody murder for a personal government bailout.

They are most often lower-level workers or frustrated middle managers (driving those company cars and calling in with "dittos") whose prospects stop at their current levels ... if they can maintain those jobs. They don't want to even listen to the alternatives, like frustrated fundamentalist religious types who would consider a good hearing of the opposition to be blasphemy. I once told a right-wing buddy of mine that I'd listen to Limbaugh an hour a day for a week (Oh, the PAIN! Oh, the SACRIFICE) if he'd turn on "All Things Considered" for one hour on a Wednesday. No deal. "You're not hooking me in with that little trick," he said.

Limbaugh, whose most recent radio contract was in the $400 million range and who travels with a squad of body guards lest some hot-headed liberal should want to knock him off (imagine that), is the voice that leads these men--off a cliff, it appears. I don't know what Limbaugh's followers aspire to be, but what they aren't is a solution to the problem. Their political support has gone without question to the people who caused our financial (and dang-near every other) problems and it doesn't seem to be near a slight waver even. They voted against Barack Obama and now wear bumper stickers reading "Nobama," which were placed upon their Hummers before Obama was sworn in.

So, do they deserve to lose their jobs? No, they don't. I'd like it a lot of they could keep them, if they would change some of their habits (like shopping in China, via Wal-Mart) to help secure American jobs, including their own. This is not a xenophobic response at this juncture. It simply makes sense. Let the government work for us--for a change. Allow the stimulus the room it needs to get hold. The simple fact is that we are in a pickle and we're not going to get out of it by listening to Limbaugh and his crowd. We may not even get out of it with this new "socialism" (oh, not, not THAT!), but it's certainly worth a try.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Final Word on Hannah Court: Success!

Removal of the dam on the Roanoke River crossing at Hannah Court is underway^

It looks like we have a solution to the Hanna Court burhaha. Chris Chittum of the Roanoke Planning Department, a guy who lives in this neighborhood and loves it (his wife runs the Grandin Theatre) listened and responded to the concerns of those who want Hannah Court to become a park, a small respite along the Roanoke River Greenway. Good for Chris and good for us.

Here's a note from Jim Crawford--who got this going. You either know the players or you can read the previous blog entries and determine who they are.

"About 4 this afternoon, Chris Chittum called me on my cell and told me that the planning department has decided to rezone Hannah Court as ROS (Recreational Open Space, a park). He said the department realized the importance of the project there and that ROS was the right thing to do. He said that in the future the department might want to do some special zoning there, but that they would go through the rezoning 'in a public way.'

"I said, let's really do a neat park there and make it a special place; it will help all of our efforts at making Roanoke a better place to live and thus increase its attractiveness to business ventures. I think he is into doing that. At least this is an opportunity to get that done and I hope they can do it with some commitment.

"Thank all of you for your help on this issues. I think a lot of folks had their say on this and [city officials] listened. An e-mail I sent to Susan Koch of the Greater Raleigh Court Civic League was forwarded around and ended up with members of city council, Rupert Cutler and others.

"Dan Smith's two blogs on the subject were very helpful and Chris mentioned that Dan and he had exchanged e-mails. Many folks helped. I learned a lot about how the city operates and that we are best when we are open and working together for known goals. Transparency is the word of the year, I think. As I said in Monday's [Preservation Foundation] meeting I am trying to get a Mountain View neighborhood group together and this is certainly wonderful news to get things going.

"This is great news for Hannah Court Park and for all of the city. I am going to the planning work session at noon Friday and will express my appreciation that they listened to neighborhood folks' input, as well as other civic minded citizens and re-thought their plans.

"Shortly after I talked with Chris Chittum, Donnie Underwood from the Parks and Rec Department returned an earlier call. He is the parks' front person on Hannah Court. I told him what I'd just learned and he said, 'Really? You must know some important people.' I think he was truly surprised. I know I was."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Salary Cap: Payback's a Killer, Fatboy

I was sitting here in the football room with CNN's early-evening news show on in the background, listening with one ear and I kept hearing "socialism" as part of the conversation as if somebody had discovered something under the rock from under which one of those banking executives had crawled. Are the federal bailouts socialist in theory? Sure. Socialism for bankers, for auto magnates, for wall street millionaires.

I heard some pained conversation about President Obama's requirement that some of the failed executives receiving stimulation money cap their salaries at $500,000. Commentator Jack Cafferty asked if that was fair, if the government had the right to tell business people what to pay themselves.

The answer to that one's simple, too: under normal circumstances, no; under these socialist circumstances, you betcha. Ever hear of the government giving anybody money for anything without having some strings on how it is spent? Would you want the government to simply give billions to these bozos and say, "We trust you. Do with it as you will"? Bet you don't.

Executive pay in 1980 was 40 times what an hourly worker earned. Today, it's 400 times that much, according to Forbes. That's obscene. It also pisses off a whole lot of Americans who are in the mood to demand something of substance from people who've been living off the cream and leaving the rest of us the skim. Payback's a bitch, boys.

Hanna Court: No Problem-o

OK, so now we have the word from the Roanoke City Planning Department that the hand-wringing over the zoning of Hannah Court (should we say "rezoning," since it's already zoned industrial?) is not really an issue.

Chris Chittum, whom I've known for lo these many years, says, "I don't think anyone had any intention of the former Hannah Court becoming industrial. It is zoned industrial today and we are seeking to change that. The new district would permit the park to happen, but we were thinking park plus other complementary uses. However, if that's causing widespread heartburn in the community, we are willing to look at other options and adjust the proposed zoning map."

Chris did not say the park would never be used for industry, which I think is what people like Jim Crawford want, but he seems willing to listen and accommodate whatever the community wants most. That sounds fair.

To be sure, if you're on the side of the park, you might want to go to Friday's noon meeting at City Hall. That is why the meetings are held.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Hey! Wanna Tone It Down a Bit, Boys?!?

The Roanoke Water Department boys tore up the street with their jackhammers this morning while I was trying to work^

Sometimes it just doesn't pay to go to work and lately that's been when a wide variety of working boys have been hard at it on Kirk Ave. Today it was a group of jack-hammering Roanoke water department guys; recently it's been a succession of carpenters, painters, plasterers, carpet and tile boys, electricians, day laborers, plumbers and big-truck-drivin', hammer-carryin', noise-makin' blue-collar-wearin' workers intent on keeping me from typing another word. I have been willing to bet Republicans sent them.

As if the noise isn't enough, I was chasing after a parking cop for several weeks, looking for tire markings, estimating that hour since I moved my pickup and putting more effort than I ever imagined possible into avoiding a parking ticket. I got three in two weeks. Then I bought a parking place for $65 a month.

Then there's the heat challenge. It's been cold outside and when the guys working on finishing our office construction in November and December went in and out and out and in and in and out again, time after time after time, it got so cold I wanted to hang meat. I bought a small personal space heater instead and it kept the hypothermia away. Going to the bathroom and leaving the heater, though, was not pleasant. I will not say that pee froze in midstream, but I will say that the zipper went back up faster than it should have on a couple of occasions.

On top of all this, there's the passersby who just have to stop in to chat ... especially when I'm writing. I sit in a picture window street-leve, and I guess the idea is that if I'm writing, I'm not really working so there's plenty of time for palaver. I like to chat so much that when somebody comes in, I break off the writing, rear back in the chair and say, "Have a seat. What's up?" which I shouldn't do if I'm ever to meet a deadline again. My partner Tom Field just shot me a threatening e-mail about me having sent the same book reviews in two different months' compilations. I'll bet my first-born male child that I made that stupid mistake when somebody stopped to chat.

It's supposed to snow tomorrow. Maybe I'll stay home and get some work done.

Monday, February 2, 2009

So What's Up With Hannah Court?

Will Hannah Court become a park or will it be just another industrial zone?^

(UPDATED Feb. 4) The City of Roanoke purchased a small piece of land called Hannah Court a while back with the stated intent of turning this former 67-mobile home park on a bend in the Roanoke River into a park as part of the Roanoke Valley Greenway system. The city used $1.8 million in federal money to make the buy.

There seems to be some dispute about whether this will happen. Planning Commission member Richard Rife says it will, but Jim Crawford, who lives next door to the site believes the city has other plans that would lead to commercial and industrial development there.

Novozymes Biologicals, as part of an agreement with the courts over its violation of the Clean Water Act, has agreed to pump $250,000 into creation of the park. Novozymes' head man here, Ted Melnyk, has been a significant backer of the greenway.

Crawford says that under proposed zoning, the park would become a light industrial district (L-1) and an Urban Flex District, which is "intended to promote high intensity, mixed use development that is economically viable, pedestrian oriented, attractive and harmonious and contributing to the placemaking character of the city," which is about as ambiguous as an explanation can be.

Richard, however, insists that "the Proposed Land Use Map shows the former trailer court property as 'Recreation & Open Space' zoning. This is in keeping with the Comprehensive Plan's goal of minimizing development in the flood plain." He says the flex district is "geared toward encouraging small arts & crafts businesses such as furniture makers, jewelry makers, construction tradesmen, etc. [It would be functional in] reviving the area down Cleveland Ave. by building businesses that can spin off the salvage operation." That would be Black Dog Salvage.

Jim Crawford, who is on the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation Board (as am I) lives in the Mountain View section bordering the now vacated park and has done some marvelous preservation work at his old home. The park is being cleared as we speak. Jim did not burst any arteries when he spoke, but I saw some veins swell alarmingly. As is so often the case with neighbors bumping up against sections where the city has expressed an interest, Jim was feeling like somebody lied to him and others in the area.

City planner Chris Chittum says, "The zoning proposal is still very much that: a proposal and nothing has been set in stone." He adds, "If you are familiar with the way this department conducts business, you will know that we actively encourage input by people who are impacted by changes and, more often than not, will make adjustments in response."

Frankly, my puzzlement has not to do so much with the possibility of lying from government officials--these people are as honest as any of the rest of us--but, if Jim is right, just exactly why they figure this piece of land should be used for commercial development, sitting, as it does on the banks of a river that floods several times in any given year and floods badly every few years.

My guess is that there are very, very few people in the planning department--or in the decision-making process of city government--who were here in 1985 when all hell broke loose with that damn river. It destroyed everything in its path, killed several people and scared the devil out of the rest of us.

Hannah Court is across the river from the west end of Wasena Park at the small dam. It is heavily in the flood zone and the feds put up the $1.8 million to get people who lived there out of harm's way. It is not an area that is logically fit for development. The Army Corps of Engineers, in fact, has just finished doing a lot of work in this area trying to reduce the effects of flooding as part of a $64.3 million project.

Hannah Court is a perfect area for extension of the city's greenway. As a trailer park, it was an eyesore (except, I suppose, to those who lived there) and a danger to those who called it home. With all evidence of the park gone, Hannah Court is a rolling meadow below Memorial Ave. and beside the Memorial Ave. Bridge, an elegant Depression-era construction. The greenway is to run northwest away from the park on that side of the river, accessible via a small bridge that, I understand, would not be built under the new plan. The concrete dam crossing the river is scheduled for demolition, according to a construction foreman. There was some concern that it would remain and that the pedestrian footbridge that is part of the park plan would not be built. The foreman says the demolition of the dam would enable a small perch to spawn and the state's wildlife department approves of that.

Jim says, the parks department people didn't know about the new plan for the court until he told them and even Liz Belcher, the head of the greenway program, was in the dark. My guess is that Liz and the parks people are not happy about the development. He also insists that he has been assured Hannah Court will be a park "for now." He's worried about the future of the land.

Any zoning for Hanna Court other than as a park does not deserve serious consideration and if Richard is right, nothing else is being talked about. We'll see.

Chris Chittum with the city's planning department says there is a meeting Friday at noon at the city offices.

A Small, Timely Diversionary Celebration

Being a fan is not an intellectual undertaking>

It's strangely amusing that a single sports event can transcend the travails of the day, almost regardless of who's in the room. My wife and I joined a group of mostly journalists for the Super Bowl last night (for a half anyway; I can't do more than that) and I don't recall a single observation about the economy entering the room. The new president's name came up, but the discussion wasn't about policy, it was, essentially: "Oh my, President Obama sounds good." Next sentence was an observation about Pittsburgh's play choice on a third and three from Arizona's 43 yard line: "They're running right, off tackle." And so they did.

It's not what I would have expected, but maybe I should have. I have been a football fan for lo these many years and one of the primary reasons I enjoy sport of nearly any kind is that it is a diversionary drama with its own tightly-constructed set of rules, its own goals, its own morality. It is clear, clean and not especially complex--which makes it the anti-politics (though hardly "the game of life" that blockhead coaches often refer to. Former presidential candidate and hero of my youth Gene McCarthy once said of football, "You have to be smart enough to understand the game and dumb enough to think it's important").

But, yes, I enjoy the game of politics, as well, God forgive me. It is competitive, trash-talking nonsense that on its best day can rescue a sick child and on its worst can produce a Bush administration or a Rod Blagojevich.

Last night's was a gathering of often intense, intellectually astute people who were in full throat (mostly black and gold full throat, which is loud and produces excellent food), but their intellect extended fully to the point that work and play can be separated for a time to the benefit of both.

A Sign Close To Home

Because The Roanoke Times is privately owned, it is difficult to determine how it is doing financially, but the competition is slumping badly. The Times is owned by Landmark Communications in Tidewater and its primary competition is Media General, the largest publisher in Virginia. Media General's financial report last week was dismal.

It reported a loss of $85.5 million in the fourth quarter on an impairment charge and a marked drop in publishing profits, blamed on declining ad sales. Media General publishes USA Today, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Winston-Salem Journal and Tampa Tribune among 21 daily and community newspapers, 275 weeklies and other publications and 19 network-affiliated TV stations. It also owns--in our area--the Lynchburg News & Advance and WSLS TV in Roanoke

Its shares dropped 68 cents (24 percent) to close at $2.15, according to Yahoo Financial. Media General says its publishing profit fell 69 percent to $8.5 million. Publishing revenue dropped and broadcast revenue was off 24 percent. In the midst of all this gloom, interactive media revenue grew 17 percent. Maybe we really can see the future.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Fuss Over Corporate Jets

Aviation magazine editor William Garvey makes a strong and logical case for the business jet industry in a NYTimes op-ed this a.m., but he completely misses the point about why the purchase of these jets is being criticized.

Bill, it's not because they're expensive (they are), that they're bathed in luxury (some are, some aren't), that they're unnecessary (usually, they are not), that they're bling (most often not). It's because a bank wanted to spend $42 million on one, and it's a bank that just got a few billion dollars in public bailout money. That money's for lending, not for jets.

Former Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill jetted off in December with his family to Cabo for a luxurious Baja vacation shortly after his bank was bailed out with $45 billion of government money. Citigroup had just cut 75,000 jobs and announced the loss of $28.2 billion. The family stayed at a hotel where a four-bedroom suite costs $12,000 a night, according to the NYPost.

The Post says Weill "played a key role in forging the company into the behemoth that toppled under its own weight in the recent credit crisis." Even though Weill left his job in 2006, his golden parachute gives him access to the $45 million jet until 2016 (he'd be 82).

The criticism's the same for the Wall Street guys who are taking a bath in bonus money these days at a time when the bottom is falling out of their industry--at least partially because of their actions. You get bonuses in most industries based on your success. A bonus is not the equivalent of the Little League certificate of participation trophy. It's about winning, performing above the average, bringing money to your employer. It is about competition, reasonable compensation, performance, incentive and fair pay for good work. Not many of us--outside sports and entertainment--can look for million dollar bonuses without even being on the board of directors. (The sports and entertainment pay travesty is another seminar.)

I'm one of those "nobody gets two houses until everybody has one" liberals that conservatives just love to bash, but I'm not sure even they are comfortable with a group of money managers who are making more from my meager investments than I am, simply by pushing the money around from pile to pile. Let's equate what those bozos do to the work of physicians, scientists, teachers, emergency workers, editors (heh, heh, heh, had to slip that in) and the like. Not much to compare, but guess who makes the most money?

Bill Garvey's piece this a.m. is worth your time if only to learn that small jets can land at 5,000 public airports in the country, but commercial planes can set down at but 500; that most of these private planes are roughly the size of a van inside; that this is a $150 billion industry generating a million jobs; that Wal-Mart is successful partially because its execs can show up at your out-of-the-way plant in a couple of hours to seal a deal (and I don't know if that's a good thing).

But it doesn't explain the misuse of public funds granted for other purposes.