Saturday, April 30, 2011

'Win Win' Wins Narrowly

If Paul Giamati is reading the phone book, my guess is you'll like the story. When the story's a good one, like "Win Win," the movie can make an evening.

In this wrestling chick flick, Giamati plays a lawyer with a faltering practice who coaches the local high school wrestling team, which has had about as much success as his law practice of late. One of Mike Flaherty's (Giamati) few remaining clients is an old man in the early stages of dementia, whom the court wants to house in a senior home, but the old boy wants to stay home. Mike, seeing the $1,500 a month he can get for caring for the old man, offers to become his guardian. He promptly puts the old man in a care facility, constituting a breach of ethics at best.

The old man, played crisply by Bert Young, has a druggie daughter he wants to locate in order to take care of him, but she's in rehab. Her high school-age son shows up looking for grandpa and the plot thickens. Mike and his wife take the boy in. He turns out to be a state title level talent and joins Mike's family. Everything's going well until the mom gets out of rehab and wants her dad and son (because of the father's money) and the complication threatens everything.

It's an often funny, always discombobulated scenario and, though this one's not going to win any prizes, it's worth the ticket price just to see Giamatti's expressionless hound dog face tell the story.

Landslide Ralph Looking for a Place To Play

Looks like Landslide Ralph Smith's (right) going to have to move again if he is to remain a part of our government. The bumbling Republican who needs a script to answer the telephone appears to have been drawn out of his State Senate District with the new General Assembly plan--set to be signed by the governor--and he's on the prowl for a new home again.

Smith, who moved from Roanoke, where he was a one-term mayor (possibly the worst in Roanoke history), to Botetourt, where he has been a laughable Senator, is wealthy and owns property all over the place. A move is not out of the question and these days carpetbagging Republicans seem to be a trend. Look at Morgan Griffith, who didn't even have to move to claim a U.S. Congressional district he didn't live in (and still doesn't) during the most recent cycle.

There is speculation from my pal Val Garner (here) that Smith will either go to the 19th District or the 21st where he will challenge either Repub Bill Stanley in a primary or Democrat John Edwards in a general election. Landslide has the bug and it's hard to shake.

But he has to understand that special favorable circumstances are going to run out for him soon. He became the mayor of Roanoke with 34 percent of the vote (thus "Landslide") when two Democrats split 66 percent down the middle and he beat Brandon Bell, who barely campaigned in the primary because he thought people would understand just how thoroughly unqualified Smith is for any office. But these are the people who put George Bush in office, so he miscalculated.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Supreme Court: 'A Decision With Devastating Consequences'

Remember when conservatives used to scream "Bloody Murder!" about "activist" judges? They're quiet these days as the Republican Supreme Court dismantles the constitutional protections of ordinary citizens and small businesses against the overbearing dominance of corporate America.

Here's the latest outrage, according to a story on HuffingtonPost today:

On Wednesday the U.S. Supreme Court sided with AT&T in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion--a decision with devastating consequences for consumer protection and civil rights. In essence, AT&T asked the court to allow it to use the fine print of contracts to eliminate class actions, a practice that flouts the laws of 20 states. In a 5-4 decision, the court granted AT&T's request.

The case's potential impact is breathtaking. Corporations can now prevent consumers and small business owners from exercising what is often their only real option for challenging companies that defraud them by millions or even billions of dollars: banding together to file class action lawsuits. The case could be equally devastating to millions of non-union employees, who need class actions to challenge systemic discrimination by their employers. 

The Supreme Court has given major corporations the green light to engage in nearly limitless wrongdoing against others, so long as they do it in relatively small dollar amounts, which ensures that no one can afford to challenge the misconduct without a class action.

A sudden demise of class actions will shock the markets and the legal system. It will dramatically increase the market power of major corporations over ordinary Americans and small business owners, who are already outmatched. Innumerable laws that protect the public will become irrelevant because few people can enforce them.

This, of course, is the same group of Supremes who earlier ruled that price fixing is OK (helps the poor by taking the complexity out of choices) and that corporations are people and can, in effect, control elections and buy politicians as an expression of free speech.


Stupid? Who's Stupid?

Is The Donald's combover stupid, too?
The Donald Trump called Barack Obama stupid last night in a speech notable for its vulgarity and its grammatical lapses.

The plastic-haired, Shirley Temple-lipped, sometimes successful--more often not--developer of large and environmentally disastrous buildings, chastised the administration for constructing schools in Afghanistan. He said he would not do that for free, using the following sentence: "I'm not interested in protecting none of them unless they pay." Not none, not no way, by gummanies.

"Our leaders are stupid, they are stupid people," said The Donald. "It's just very, very sad." Some of our leaders' critics are even dumber and that's sad, too.

Spam Headline of the Day

Does Homer's Winky droop?
Got this little jewel in my morning spam:

"Encourage Your Winky"

Consider it encouraged. This, of course, is an erection drug ad and my guess is that it spans the globe looking for anybody over 35 because, with all the drugs in our food, winky problems are everywhere.

(Homer graphic:

Roanoke's Dialogue Gallery to Feature Page Turner

One of Roanoke’s more interesting young artists, Page Turner, will have an assemblage/sculpture exhibit May 26 at the Dialogue Gallery in Roanoke, 3-10 p.m. She'll be celebrating her 30th birthday at the event.

It is called “A Stitch in Time Saves Nine” and the selections were made by Beth Venn, curator of modern and contemporary art and senior curator of the Department of American Art at the Newark Museum, which will publish the works in Studio Visit, Volume 13 of the Open Studios Press.

According to a press release, the show features a “series hyper-nostalgic of the culture of her rural grandparents, children who grew up through the Great Depression. Turner turns these scraps back into sacred objects by building cultural totems, records of our past experiences and memories. Turner’s work focuses on a culture without waste, re-purposing manufactured objects into consummate art forms.”

You can see some of her work here.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

River Laker and a New 'Sitcom'

I just got this e-mail:

"My name is Blair Peyton and I'm the producer/co-star of the locally produced web sitcom TUNED OUT. Due to the extensive coverage of River Laker's "strip tease at 202, our next episode comedically deals with the whole fiasco ... and even features River Laker as a guest (although he doesn't technically know it). The show goes live THIS SUNDAY (also airs in NYC on MNN Sunday at 11 p.m.)... Be sure to check it out!"

Here's the link:

I have nothing to do with this, but it sounds like it could be one of the more interesting events of the weekend.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Writers Conference in Bedford Friday and Saturday

Darrell Laurent
Janeson Keeley
The fifth annual Sedalia Writers' Conference will be held April 29-30, featuring writers Darrel Laurent, Janeson Keeley, me, and Lisa Tracy, as well as literary agent Dawn Dowdle. The event is co-sponsored by The Writers' Bridge, a national freelance writer's marketing and coaching organization, based in Lynchburg and founded by newsman Darrel Laurent.

The conference will begin with a wine and cheese reception on Friday, April 29, 7-9 p.m. The program will take place Saturday 9 am.-4 p.m. The cost of the conference is $25. Register by e-mailing or calling; 434-525-4811 or 434-385-5544. Here are directions to the center.
Participants will have the opportunity to meet with Dowdle at short sessions Saturday. Writers attending the conference may choose to submit in advance (by mail or email) a small writing sample. For $5, the sample will be critiqued and returned at the conference. Writers must submit samples by April 1, in order to take advantage of this opportunity.
Janeson Keeley is the owner of JTKWeb in Roanoke, where she specializes in Web site development, search engine optimization, and social media consulting and implementation. She is also an award-winning colunnist for Valley Business FRONT and the founder of TweetVA, "Virginia's Twitter Directory." Janeson and I will teach “Promoting Your Self-Published Work.”
Lisa Tracy is a journalist and author of a number of books, including Objects of Our Affection, Muddy Waters: The Legacy of Katrina and Rita, and The Gradual Vegetarian. She has served as Home and Design Editor and Sunday Magazine Managing Editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer and worked in press relations for the ABC TV. She has been an actress and stage technician. She has taught composition, creative nonfiction, literature and history
Darrell Laurant has been a journalist for three decades and a freelance writer for almost that long. The local columnist for The News & Advance in Lynchburg, he has also written more than 200 magazine and Website articles and is the founder and director of The Writers' Bridge, an international freelance writers' organization.
Friday, April 29:
Reception with conference attendees and some of the presenters, at the Sedalia Center, 7-9.
Saturday, April 30:
8:30-9:30: Coffee, doughnuts, etc.
9:30-10:30: Literary agent Dawn Dowdle discusses her job. She will talk with students during the day.
10:30-11:30: Lisa Tracy will discuss memoir and non-fiction writing.
11:30-12:30: Darrell Laurant will talk about surviving as a freelance writer.
12:30-2:30: Lunch, time with Dawn Dowdle.
2:30-3:30: Dan Smith and Janeson Keely will give a presentation on "Promoting Your Self-Published Book Online."
3:30-4:30. Closing panel discussion.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Are Independent Voters Really This Stupid?

Independent voters are almost always more interesting in theory than in practice and almost always far less thoughtful than their press would have us believe.

A poll conducted of 1,000 potential voters in April by Stan Greenberg's and James Carville's Democracy Corps asked a number of the usual questions, then used each party’s talking points about the current budget debate to get to the heart of the matter.

An April 26 story in The New Republic reports that the "results are mildly hilarious. By a margin of over 20 points, voters agree with these GOP lines: 'Both Democrats and Republicans have run up deficits, but now they are out of control under President Obama and threatening our economy'; Paul Ryan’s plan 'changes the reckless path of over-spending and borrowing'; and, “'Over-regulation and high taxes punish companies for success.'

"At the same time, by slightly higher percentages, they also agree with the Democrats that Ryan’s budget would 'eliminate guaranteed Medicare and Medicaid coverage'; 'force seniors to negotiate with private insurance companies, which are free to raise rates and deny coverage'; and 'decrease taxes for CEOs and big corporations, giving millionaires another huge tax break.'"

When nice, well-intentioned people give us George Bush or somebody else from the same hole in the political ground, they cease to be nice people who are well-intentioned and become a threat to the Republic.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hurt Park Community Garden Dedicated

Young girl plants a tomato.
Hurt Park neighbors dig in.
Mark Powell (hat) shows garden plan (taped to cistern) to Mayor David Bowers . I
Mayor David Bowers (in vest) dedicates the garden.
One of my favorite people, Christina Koomen, has been a strong advocate of community gardens in Roanoke for some time now and it was to her delight that the new Hurt Park Community Garden was dedicated Saturday. The garden, like the one in Southeast Roanoke before it, is the brainchild of Mark Powell.

Hurt Park is a quiet, working class neighborhood that is mostly African-American and Hispanic and is a perfect spot for a community garden.

Mayor David Bowers  blessed the cistern (which will provide collected rainwater to the garden) and the garden. as the neighbors and their children dug in. Literally.

The photos are courtesy of Christina.

Quote of the Day: Generation Y and Our Failed Government

"The political culture of Washington, with its personal anger and uncompromising animosity, its Know Nothing rejection of global warming science and its embrace of religiosity without spirituality, its big company corruption legalized by lobbying, is in deep conflict with Gen Y culture."

--Fast Company Magazine

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Look at Earth Day in Roanoke

My best buddy, Christine Ward, and me at her booth.
Christine's socks match her wheel.
Cara and Justin Hubbard of Healthy Stuff. Didn't look healthy. Was.
Bobby Booth paints Timber Raines.
Cool Cities' Mark McClain and Diana Christopulos.
Guy parked in a vendor's spot. Didn't last long.
Susan Jennings (left), grandson Blake with Katie Wallace and Ken Cronin of Citizens for Clean and Green.
George Kegley mans his Land Trust booth.
Tiffani Reynolds made these baskets of newspaper and throw-aways.
Artist Polly Branch setting up.
Polly Branch with her Old Woman in a Shoe, environmentally friendly.

Earth Day in Raleigh Court, Roanoke, today began as a cool spring day and finished with a bang as a lovely early-summer festival. More than 75 vendors--the largest in the history of the event--and a huge crowd celebrated environmentalism for five hours and it was a lot of fun.

I was there with my long-time friend Christine Ward, who has an energy healing practice and a gambling wheel. The kids loved the wheel. Adults were asking questions about energy healing.

The bottom two photos in this sequence feature Roanoke artist Polly Branch with what I thought was the most interesting display at Earth Day, her environmentally friendly Old Mother Hubbard's shoe, made of the same kind of plaster they used to put on your broken leg. Polly had a ball with it.

First Amendment: Sometimes It's Hard To Swallow

Preacher Terry Jones and the signs of his times.
The First Amendment to the Constitution frequently tests our commitment to our form of Republican government, perhaps more than any other portion of that document (including the divisive section about guns).

In Michigan yesterday, the right to free speech came face-to-face once again with a despicable human being who was practicing that right. True to its founding purpose, the American Civil Liberties Union was there to defend the unpopular and many--including me, I'm afraid--reacted with favor on the court's decision against the amendment and against this redneck hate monger.

The case was brought against 59-year-old preacher Terry Jones, the Gainsville, Fla., cretin who burned the Koran recently and was instrumental in the deaths of a lot of people. (A news report is here.) He was planning a Good Friday protest at one of the largest mosques in America when the court stopped him. The ACLU fought for his right to be an idiot, but lost.

I have a deep and abiding admiration for an organization that can defend people like Jones and American Nazis while fighting for my right to say what I want within the broad, broad borders defined by "free speech." It is a cornerstone of our democracy and speech is a right we dare not lose. It is a much stronger defense than guns. Thank you, ACLU for doing what not many of us can stomach.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Sometimes The Speaker Isn't Appropriate

It is thoroughly intriguing that Rep. Bob Goodlate, who represents those of us in the 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, is today's speaker at the Town of Buchanan's Earth Day Celebration. Goodlatte has a miserable environmental rating that he has maintained through all his years--waaaaaay past the term limits he initially proposed--in the House.

He has just a 17 percent rating, in fact, with the Republicans for Environmental Protection, hardly what he'd call a group of  "radical environmentalists." He consistently has a 100 percent rating from the Private Property Voters group, which likes the idea of being able to do any damn thing they want with their property, including polluting it.

Here's most of what he supports and opposes. Really interesting stuff if you give one healthy thought to the environment in the course of a week. Goodlatte apparently doesn't.

(By the way, I like Bob personally, but boy! do we disagree on everything. Except maybe that he has a truly marvelous wife, Maryellen. She's on our opening panel at the Women's Forum at Hollins Oct. 1 and will teach a class on women's rights.)

Vietnam Vets: 'Private Wars' is for You and It Only Runs Two More Performances

Vietnam Veterans, here’s a play for you and it only has two more performances to run in downtown Roanoke at Studio Roanoke. 

I’m hearing great things about "Pvt. Wars" and I'll be there tonight. 

Here’s the detail you need: “Pvt. Wars” is a one-act, three-character) comic drama running about an hour and 15 minutes with no intermission. 

The play is about three Vietnam veterans recuperating in a VA Hospital and the fragile bonds of friendship that form between them. It is a very funny and touching play by James McLure, who died earlier this year. It is set in the late 1960s/early ‘70s. The show closes on the 23rd (Saturday). 

There are performances tonight and tomorrow night at 8 p.m. (house opens at 7:30 and a cash bar is available) at Studio Roanoke, 30 West Campbell. 

Writer Ibby Greer says, “The acting was super. Black comedy, sad passages, poignant, good dialogue. Brought back that era with a punch.”

Tickets are $12 for most of us and $8 for students. They can be reserved at 540-343-3054 or bought online here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Do Plus-Size Models Equal Fat Consumers?

Glamour Magazine's 'Plus-Size' calendar. I'm not seeing a lot of fat here.
Here's a thoroughly interesting conclusion from a couple of people who seem to know what they're talking about: heavyweight models help create heavyweight consumers.

The logic from Drs. David Dragone and Lucca Savorelli, scientists at the University of Bologna, Italy, is on pretty solid footing, since the traditional argument has been that skinny models create skinny consumers. The paper is vague and claims only that heavy models are one factor in creating fat consumers.

You can wade through it here if you have some time to kill. Dull stuff.

Mill Mountain Theatre Hires Producing Director

Mill Mountain Theatre took the next step toward coming back live today by announcing it has hired Scott Treadway (right) as its producing artistic director.

Treadway has a solid background in development, artistic directing and acting with the venerable Flat Rock Playhouse near Hendersonville, N.C. He is a member of Actors Equity and has been in more than 140 productions.

According to the Asheville Citizen-Times (where I began as a journalist in the 1960s), "Treadway spent 27 years with Flat Rock Playhouse, becoming a familiar face on that stage, mostly in comedic roles. But last year, he resigned as associate artistic director and actor. Earlier this season, he appeared at N.C. Stage Company in Asheville in the comedy 'Boeing, Boeing.'"

MMT has been all but closed since January of 2009 and in that time has paid most of the debt that caused the closing. It has retained a single employee (Ginger Poole, who was also employed by Flat Rock Playhouse) during that time and has occasionally been host for productions. The theater is expected to open again in 2013.

It is interesting that today's announced grants from the Taubmans in Roanoke ($1.25 million for arts organizations) had $25,000 for Studio Roanoke, which stepped into the void when MMT went black, and nothing for MMT. From what I understand, those approving the grants doubted MMT's ability to come back, and turned down its application. The announcement of grants was made on the very day when the theater hired its new artistic director, a pretty good sign of viability, or at least an anticipated future.

Opposition for Goodlatte: After a Fashion

Karen Kwiatkowski
I'm not sure what Sixth District Congressman Bob Goodlatte has done to deserve the opposition he'll get in the upcoming election. He might as well not have any and this guy is one of the boys I'd like to see back in private life.

Today, according to my pal Valerie Garner over at the Roanoke Free Press, he even got a Republican primary opponent in the form of a Libertarian who turned down a run for president in the last cycle.

Her name is Karen Kwiatkowski and she has some views only a Libertarian would love, and she's courting the Tea Party vote from its right on some issues. She believes, for example, that the Patriot Act is unconstitutional (if it isn't, it should be) and that the federal government's right to tax should be eliminated. She believes governors and state legislators should appoint U.S. Senators. She's a 50-year-old retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who was working in the Pentagon the day it was attacked by terrorists.

Andy Schmookler
The Democratic opponent at this point is Dr. Andrew Bard Schmookler, 65, a man of imposing intellect and resume. (Goodlatte's opponents constitute the All-Name Team for this election cycle.)

Val told us about him here. He's a graduate of Harvard and Cal-Berkley and has been quoted as saying, "The Democratic Party is the only thing that can possibly protect us from the destructive force that the Republican Party has become.” (Libertarians would argue that.)

Schmookler, who lives in Shenandoah County at the far edge of the 6th District, is an intellectual (that won't strike fear into Goodlatte), a writer and is much appreciated in intelligence circles internationally. Which means he has a snowball's chance in hell of winning election in the U.S.

(Photos from Roanoke Free Press)

At Tech, Separating the Rational from the Emotional

A study by Ulrich Kirk, research assistant professor with the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory at Virginia Tech and Jonathan Downar of the University of Toronto, offers a new take on decision-making that shows the role of emotion from those decisions.

Research conducted over the last three decades shows that Buddhist meditators use different areas of the brain than other people when confronted with unfair choices, enabling them to make decisions rationally rather than emotionally. The meditators had trained their brains to function differently and make better choices in certain situations.

The study is published in the April 2011 issue of Frontiers in Decision Neuroscience.

The research "highlights the clinically and socially important possibility that sustained training in mindfulness meditation may impact distinct domains of human decision making," the researchers write.

The research came about when Montague wondered whether some people are capable of ignoring the social consideration of fairness and can appreciate a reward based on its intrinsic qualities alone. "That is," he says, "can they uncouple emotional reaction from their actual behavior?"

Using computational and neuroimaging techniques, Montague studies the neurobiology of human social cognition and decision-making.  He and his students recruited 26 Buddhist meditators and 40 control subjects for comparison and looked at their brain processes using functional MRI (fMRI) while the subjects played the "ultimatum game," in which the first player propose how to divide a sum of money and the second can accept or reject the proposal.

The researchers hypothesized that "successful regulation of negative emotional reactions would lead to increased acceptance rates of unfair offers" by the meditators. The behavioral results confirmed the hypothesis. There is no word whether the researchers will test political science majors.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

'Pro Life, Pro Family, Pro Marriage': What It Means

On the way from a baseball game tonight, I had the distinct misfortune to hear the insufferable Ralph Reed (right), head of the misnamed "moral" something or other, which implies he has morals and people like me--who strongly oppose him--don't. He's never had even a sprinkling of morality that I'm aware of. Reed is one of the worst charlatans in American political history and tonight he was preaching to me about being "pro life, pro family and pro marriage" as if only he and his ilk could be that.

I am a liberal and I am pro life, pro family and pro marriage. Those things mean a good bit more to me than his narrow definition of each would allow. My pro life view includes being opposed to the death penalty, guns, war, discrimination against the poor, and in favor of allowing abortion to those who choose it. In many, many cases, abortion allows mothers to live better lives and keeps babies from being born into impossible circumstances.

Pro family includes gay parents, straight parents, mixed color parents and support of families who are having financial difficulties by pooling our money and spreading it around. Pro marriage, of course, includes blessing the marriage of anybody who is tough enough to give it a try. Frankly, my pro marriage stance would require those wishing to marry to go to school for at least six weeks of classes (five hours a week) and learn what it is about. If the married people want to become a family of more than two, they would be required to take classes for six months--five hours a week.

Now those are "pro" positions that don't exclude and that protect the institutions from abuse by the "moral."

At Salem Municipal It's Beauty Before Ball

Salem Municipal Ballfield as the sun set tonight.
Spectacular view again.
The sky was beautiful even before dusk.
The wind was howling, as flags prove.
Broadcaster Evan Lepler in his "office" with a view.
Finally: Recyclable containers.
I went out to my first baseball game of the season tonight and there is little wonder many of us can't resist this park, even when we are lukewarm about baseball. It is simply a stunning setting and with baseball, unlike other sports, you can actually engage in conversation with your companions as the game progresses.

I can't tell you how many times I've sat at a game, looked at the scoreboard and seen that it was 6-5 and said, "I haven't seen a single run scored" and I didn't care. It's not about the baseball for me.

One of the reasons I showed up tonight was to do a photo of Evan Lepler, the young Salem Red Sox radio broadcaster. Above you see him in his office, one we all have to envy.

You will also notice, when you finally get out to the park, that, after years of asking for them, the Salem Memorial Ballpark has recyclable cans for bottled drinks. Yay, Salem.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

New FRONT Ad Execs Introduced at Tech Expo

FRONT Editor Dan Smith (left) and Publisher Tom Field with brand new advertising executives Judi Billups (left) and Kathy Bibb at their first function representing VBF.
Courtney Dobbs, a freshman 10,000 meter and cross country runner at Virginia Tech, worked the booth for Review Hounds of Blacksburg and created a social media booster for FRONT. She runs the ACC meet Thursday.
Lynda Foster talks as Sherita Simpson and Leslie Coty prepare their remarks.
Near full house for social media class.
Bart Wilner of Entre Computer Center with his lit-up lapel pin.
The Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce's Technology Expo today appeared to be smaller from the standpoint of the number of vendors showing, but the energy level was high and the crowd consistently large throughout.

The two featured classes drew big crowds and business was being conducted briskly from beginning to end. Above is a look at some of it.

The Expo was also notable for the FRONT's introduction of its two brand new advertising executives, Judi Billups and Kathy Bibb.

Barking Dogs in the City: It's Against the Law

I had a little dust-up over the weekend with a neighbor who owns a beagle with the voice box of a Boeing 767 and the result was threats from her husband and a promise that, no, she wouldn't do anything about the incessant howling that was keeping my windows closed and preventing me from using my deck.

After our discussion, her 500-pound husband showed up in my back yard as I was unloading dirt from my truck and continued the conversation with, "Are you the one who was arguing with my wife?" and I said, "That would probably be accurate if your wife is the one with the loud beagle."

"Well," he said,  "we're building a fence for the dog and until then, he's going to bark some."

"You characterize that pained and incessant howl as 'bark some'?" I said. "Generous of you. You already have a fence and the dog's howling because he's tied up and left alone. That's a real good sign of bad ownership."

That pissed him off. "You're the one that called the dog warden on us, ain't you?" he said.

"That'd be me," I countered. "You didn't seem to be around, but the dog sure was and I had company on my deck. We couldn't hear each other talking."

"If you call them again," he said, getting redder and fatter by the minute, "I'm suing for harassment." Interesting concept: liability for reporting a crime.

"We have some pretty crazy ordinances in the city," I said, "but I don't think it's breaking the law to report a public menace and disturbing the peace."

"You just try it," he said.

"I will," I promised. "Next time the dog howls, you'll get a visitor. Now, I think it's time for you to leave." And he did.

Next day, I e-mailed my pal Bill Hackworth, the Roanoke City Attorney and he mediated. I was right, the fat guy was wrong.

Here's the ordinance (with this caveat from Bill, "We do not have an ordinance creating an offense for someone who calls the police to report violations of City ordinances. "):

Sec. 6-11. Public nuisance animal.
(a) A public nuisance animal shall mean and include any animal or animals that:
(1) Is observed to run at large, as defined by section 6-22, two (2) or more times in any six-month period;
(2) Excessively makes disturbing noises including, but not limited to, continued or repeated howling, barking, whining, or other utterances causing unreasonable annoyance, disturbance or discomfort to neighbors or others in close proximity to the premises where the animal is kept or harbored;
(b) No person shall keep, harbor, act as the custodian of or permit to remain in or about any premises occupied by him any public nuisance animal, and violation of this section shall constitute a Class 3 misdemeanor. In addition, any violation of this section is hereby declared a public nuisance, and any person suffering injury or damage therefrom may seek correction, removal or abatement of such public nuisance through appropriate suit in equity. Any public nuisance animal, as defined by subsection (a) of this section, may be impounded. (c) This section shall have no application to dangerous and vicious dogs which are regulated by division 3 of this article.

Sec. 6-26. Barking or howling dogs.

The harboring or keeping of any dog, which by loud, frequent or habitual barking or howling or by other conduct likely to cause annoyance and disturb the peace and quiet of any person or neighborhood, which loud, frequent or habitual barking or howling or other conduct is heard or observed by any animal control officer, other officer or other person, shall be unlawful, and any such dog is hereby declared to be a public nuisance. Any such dog may, after reasonable notice has been given by an animal control officer to the owner of such dog, if known, or upon complaint of any person, if such owner is unknown, be impounded and confined in the city dog pound by an animal control officer or any police officer. 

Sounds clear to me. If you have a barking dog, shut his noisy ass up or you can lose him. And you can probably lose more than that if the offended citizen chooses to make it so.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sen. Mark Warner and the 'Gang of Six'

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner is a curious political type, one whose label changes depending on who's issuing it. To Republicans, he's a liberal; to national Democrats, a conservative; to most of the rest of us, a moderate. He's far to the left of all but a couple of Republicans, far to the right of the bulk of his party colleagues and a guy almost anybody can talk to. Even Saxbee Chambliss (above left with Warner) of Georgia, the Republican who won a few years ago by saying a paraplegic war hero was a coward.

These days, as part of the Gang of Six in the Senate, Warner is working with five other Senators of various stripes to try to come up with a budget plan that can cross ideologies and get the country off "stuck." None of us has much clue whether it can be done and if it is done by them, whether it will be accepted by a majority of Senators, a much less clubby House of Representatives and a president who seems just about ready to agree to anything that isn't nothing.

Today's New York Times has a piece about the gang and Warner's role in it. It's worth reading, both because he's your senator and because these guys are setting something of a standard with the simple act of talking to each other. That's a mighty low bar, but it's the only one we have.