Sunday, February 28, 2016

Lovely Winter's Day: Road Trip to Lexington

That's Margie (and me in the mirror) in a delightful little boutique in Lexington, the Pumpkinseed.
Margie and I decided that on a pretty day like this one in late February, it would be best to get our butts out the door and on the road. Lexington is always a great destination, whether or not we are hiking and today, it wasn't hiking. It was touring and shopping in some of Lexington's wonderful little shops (most of which are closed on Sunday). 

We found the charming little shop, the Pumpkinseed on Main Street, which had a sign outside saying something like "The cutest little shop in these parts." It is. We didn't find anything inside to buy (expensive stuff), but Margie tried on a dress asking, "Does this make me look fat?" Yes, said I, taking into consideration that honesty is the pillar on which relationships thrive. 

We had lunch at a sweet little restaurant in the heart of town and I ordered a Mediterranean salad with grilled chicken. I asked if the chicken could be blackened. The waitress asked if I meant cooked until it was burned. I explained and she went to the kitchen and asked the chef. She said, yes, she could do it. And could she ever! Best blackened chicken I ever ate. Margie had the fish taco and it was delightful, as well.

Does this make me look fat?
We rode back with the windows down, the radio on and sparkling conversation livening the wondrous air. Good day for both of us.
Margie inspects the goodies at the Pumpkinseed.


A Winter Hike Among Fallen Trees

Janeson Keeley photographs the blocked trail on the Hollins Greenway.
Ice and rain uprooted this big tree.
A hike up the Hollins Greenway Trail to the Carvins Cove overlook yesterday meant a lot of climbing over fallen trees.

Last week's ice storm and a great deal of February rain and snow left the ground saturated and when the trees were covered with heavy ice, many of them either snapped or fell over from their top-heavy state.

It was a mess and will require some time to clean up. At one point, my hiking partner, Janeson Keeley, and I went off the trail, scrambled straight up the mountain and took a different route to the top.

We began the hike in the cold and wind and finished in warm sunshine, sweaty and tired. That's winter fun.

Janeson and I found an alternate route to the blocked trail. She found it in black and white.
Blocked mess of a trail.
Pampa climbs over a fallen tree.

Friday, February 26, 2016

County Board Member Explains Slave Buildings Move

Slave building being moved (from WTVR coverage here)
Over quite a bit of well-publicized protest, the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors has managed this week to move a slave cabin and kitchen house, which rested on a prime piece of real estate at the Greenfield Industrial Park. The cabin and kitchen house are historic relics from the mid-19th Century which were occupied by slaves.

John Williamson
Protesters have railed against racial, historic and cultural insensitivity in the move to the front of the industrial park and little has been heard publicly from the board of supervisors. 

An old friend of mine--John Williamson--is a member of that board and I have always known John to be an honorable and honest man, anything but a racist and a man keenly in tune with history and culture. He is well aware of the significance of the buildings and wrote a detailed explanation of the reasons behind the move, which has not been made public, as far as I know.

According to his paper, the board's logic in moving the buildings were financial and economic: a planned 100,000-square-foot shell building (which can be expanded to 250,000 square feet) will be built at a cost of $3 million, borne by the Roanoke Valley Development Foundation. John says that "conservatively," the value of the investment could reach $45 million and involve "hundreds of jobs" for the county. It is, he insists, a "prime" economic development location.

The county has a development-ready pad near the site that opponents to the cabin move would prefer to see developed, but John insists that the two sites, one developed, would make Botetourt County highly attractive to companies wanting to move or expand. The cabins on one site have been an inhibitor. 

Meanwhile, says John, the cabins "are deteriorating" and "will be stabilized" in the new location, which will feature historic attractions. 

In order to get the board's--mostly John's--take on what  is going on, I asked him some blunt questions. Although the opponents of the move have asked me to help with publicity (and I have accommodated), I have no dog in this fight. I have been, however, a board member of the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation and am keenly aware of the value of historic buildings. 

Here is the e-mail we exchanged:

Can you give me the rationale the board of supervisors is using in moving the old slave buildings from Greenfield?  From the outside and from reading the literature of those in opposition, this situation falls into several negative categories: 

Point: Racism (overt, blatant and reckless)
John: Simply not true. The white radical historical preservationist played the race card on this after their efforts to wrest control of the property to their personal preferential use failed. I know no white person in the Friends of Greenfield that has a track record of service to the black community greater than mine. I should be offended, but am not. I know what the truth is.) 

Point: The board following through with a decision without considering citizen input, without considering historical culture and with no consideration of the decedents of the slaves who lived there.

John: The fact that public input did not change the decision does not mean they did not have an opportunity. If my memory serves correctly the older black lady (I will list no names) that claims to be a descendant of Greenfield slaves has spoken at four Board of Supervisors meetings. I am sure she believes she has relatives in unmarked graves on the hill near the cabins. The fact that she believes it does not make it so. Several archaeology reviews indicate otherwise.  So does logic. 

The cabins are adjacent to the old manor house that burned 60 years ago. The racist of 170 years ago would not have buried slave in the equivalent of the mansion grounds when there are three graveyards on the property located half a mile away. We have been receptive to their concerns. However they have no unique claims to that property. Neither do the white descendants of that property. 

The property has sold multiple times. A former inhabitant does not have a use claim. I cant go back to the old Williamson farm in Bedford County and tell the owners that they can't remove an old barn to make room for a new one. To assume such a right would be chaos. 

Point: The appearance that money trumps culture, especially when it is black culture. 
John: It is true there are millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs dependent on this decision. Your assertion however that it is an either or, is a false dichotomy. The cabins are being preserved by this board, while previous boards, the historical society and the minority community ignored them for the past 20 years( period of County ownership) and left then to continue to rot down. We are the ones preserving black culture, and frontier history just not in exactly the way that the arm chair white intelligentsia would prefer.)

Point: The situation doesn't look good from what I have learned. Please let me know your side.

John: It may not look good to you. I and the Board have not waged an unrelenting propaganda campaign as a small but very vocal minority has. They have played to the media and we have not. I don't need to trash the media, you know the score. Sell papers and air time. 

Everybody loves a messy story, especially if someone screams unresponsive big government and racist. I confess to being a little surprised at the single-minded unrelenting opposition of a talented small minority. 

Does not make them right only relentless in the pursuit of their selfish efforts to control this property that was bought and paid for by the common tax payer. The common tax payer who deserves for people like me to protect his interests. I intend to continue to do that.

(Photo: WTVR, here)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Meeting Today on Slave Buildings Removal

Greenfield Preston slave quarters.
It looks like the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors will proceed with the removal of old slave buildings on the Greenfield Preston Plantation--which is now an industrial park--despite protests from a number of people.

Those protesting say they cannot get a response to their questions about the removal from the board and they have held a couple of organized gatherings--including a gospel sing--recently. Another is scheduled today (Thursday) February 25 at 5:30 p.m. at the St. Mark’s Episcopal Youth Center Building in Fincastle to present an update on the status of the slave dwellings and the plantation grounds which have been altered by the Board of Supervisors’ decision.

The lack of response from the board of supervisors is most troubling to me, so I have e-mailed my old friend John Williamson, a member of the board, for a response. He promises to have one by early this evening and I will let you know what he says. John is neither a racist, nor a person insensitive to our culture and history. He is, however, a former county administrator who is acutely aware of tax bases and economic development.

A lot of us don't want to sell out off our heritage in order to keep our taxes low, but many would do that in a heartbeat. We'll see if that has any application here.

Meanwhile, you can make your voice heard at the meeting today or by calling a Botetourt County representative.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Unranked UT Women Hoops: First Since '85

Holly Warlick of UT: A familiar pose.
For the first time since 1985, the University of Tennessee's iconic women's basketball team is not in the Associated Press' Top 25 teams in the country.

This from a team that has consistently led the nation in attendance, has been a haven for the best players, was the home of the winningest coach in college basketball history (Pat Summitt, who retired three years ago with alzheimers). Behind Summitt, UT virtually created women's college basketball as a force.

This can be laid directly at the feet of Holly Warlick, an all-American player at Tennessee, who was Summitt's top assistant for years. There was never any doubt she would be the head coach when Summitt left, but it looks like the forgone conclusion was dead wrong.

Not only is Tennessee 6-8 in its last 14 games (losing to last place LSU most recently), but it has nobody in its 2016-17 recruiting class. Not one single player of any stripe. The future looks especially dismal, especially when you consider that the current team was No. 4 in the first AP poll this year.

But Tennessee, in the midst of six gender-based lawsuits within its athletic department would hardly be expected to fire her at this point. In fact two of her teams have won 30 games. In my world, firing is not the result of one bad season. It is the result of consistently not living up to expectation, which marks Warlick's teams, and a dismal projected future. The latter is virtually assured.

Here is what is now history at Tennessee, according to the Washington Post:

— The longest AP poll streak for a men’s team is 155 weeks (UCLA 1966-1976).  Tennessee’s streak was 3 1/2 times longer than that.

— The team with the longest women’s streak is now Connecticut at 428 consecutive weeks. According to the AP, it will take the Huskies about seven more years to match Tennessee’s streak.

— The Lady Vols’ fall from preseason No. 4 to unranked is tied for the biggest drop in AP top 25 history. Georgia did the same in the 1991-92 season.

— The Lady Vols were ranked No. 1 103 times over the streak, ranked in the top five 407 times and in the top 10 506 times.

— Tennessee had been ranked in all but 15 AP women’s polls until Monday.

— Blockbuster video opened its first store after the Lady Vols started their streak — on Oct. 19, 1985 — and closed all but a handful of them well before the streak ended.

A Nation Run on Poop? Tech Research Says 'Yes!'

Wastewater accounts for 3 percent of American electricity.
An effort by a couple of Virginia Tech researchers to increase the amount of electricity generated by American wastewater, could give the sinister Koch brothers (who want to dismantle the solar and wind power industries) a new headache.

Xueyang Feng and Jason He have written about their findings in Scientific Reports, showing a "working relationship between two specific substrates [that] produced more energy than either did separately. ... It could help in the development of new treatment system called a microbial fuel cell.

The He lab is operating a microbial fuel cell system in a local wastewater treatment plant for evaluating its long term performance with actual wastes in the real world, the one that houses the Koch brothers.

Using wastewater for power generation is not new, but this discovery is a large step ahead in the development of efficiency and general use.

Already known: "While one substrate known as lactate was mainly metabolized by its host bacteria to support cell growth, another substrate known as formate was oxidized to release electrons for higher electricity generation."

Feng and He found "that when these two substrates are combined, the output of energy is far greater than when they are working separately. ... The  kind of organics that Feng and He used was novel in generating electricity because they were able to measure the symbiotic nature of two particular organics." It is much more detailed than that--much more detailed than I understand, but suffice to say, it has promise.

Already, "Treatment plants are now able to harness methane from the solids in sewage allowing towns such as Grand Junction, Colorado, to generate energy. The plant takes in 8 million gallons of wastewater and is the first city in the U.S. to fuel its vehicle fleet with energy produced from human waste."
The findings "earned Qin, who is from Shandong Province, China, the 2015 Innovation Award for Best Technological Advancement from the International Society for Microbial Electrochemistry and Technology."


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Great German Filmmaker and the Movie 'Race'

Leni Riefenstahl directs behind the camera.
Just saw the movie "Race," which deals with Jesse Owens and the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany, which were used dramatically for political purposes. The movie itself is entertaining and fairly well fact-based (though there some points many would argue), but it isn't in a class with the great Olympics movie "Chariots of Fire," which won an Academy Award as Best Movie in 1981.

You know Owens' story: four gold medals, pretty much making a shambles of Hitler's showcase of German racial superiority. But the story that is every bit as interesting--especially to me--is that of movie maker Leni Riefenstahl, who produced the memorable, groundbreaking film of the games.

Riefenstahl, one of my heroes, is a controversial figure because she worked for the Nazis, willingly, even enthusiastically. She was much like Albert Speer in that respect. Speer was the architect of the Third Reich and built all of the memorable infrastructure. He was a Hitler favorite because he was a visionary, but he was not especially political and simply saw being given carte blanche to do his job as an opportunity.

Riefenstahl apparently felt much the same way. She had been an outstanding actress (she was the lead actress in "Tangier" with Boris Karloff and Humphrey Bogart), director and finally later a visionary filmmaker. Hitler wanted her to record Nazi history and gave her everything she wanted in order to do it. She simply could not resist. Her politics were non-existent and, like Speer, she saw an unparalleled opportunity.

Leni examines her film.
She immediately produced, "Triumph of the Will," a ground-breaking propaganda film that is still the standard 75 years later. Of course, her film of the Olympics remains memorable and was even groundbreaking in the literal sense.

At one point, she dug a trench beside the broad jump (now, long jump) pit so she could shoot up at the athletes, giving them a heroic look. In 1941, five years after these Olympics, Orson Welles dug holes in the studio floors to shoot a number of scenes in his seminal "Citizen Kane."

Reifenstahl gets completely sympathetic--some of it manufactured--treatment in "Race," but it's the first time I have really seen her portrayed in a way I believe she felt: an artist making the best of her opportunity.

It is difficult for me to remove the horror of Nazi Germany from this woman's life and I don't make the effort. I simply see her for what she was: a great filmmaker and later a woman of considerable compassion and continued productivity throughout her life. Even as an old lady, she was scuba diving with a camera, making movies and doing great work in Africa.

Reifenstahl lived a long and productive life, working with African tribesman late in her life, but she was hounded with her Nazi association for all of her 100 years. A documentary titled "The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Reifenstahl" ("Die Macht der Bilder: Leni Riefenstahl") remains one of my favorites, but at times it is difficult to watch. (Peek here.)

Go see the movie. I think you might enjoy it, for a lot of reasons (including the fact that it made an utter ass out of longtime Olympic Committee head Avery Brundadge).

How Long Before We Get a Supreme Court Back?

This analysis by journalist Brianne Gorod tells us that if President Obama does not get a Supreme Court justice approved during the 300 days he has left in office, it will effectively be October, 2017, at the earliest before we have a full nine-member Supreme Court. That means the court will be at a 4-4 divide on many of the 120 or so cases it will hear between now and then and a tie goes to the lower court. That ruling by the lower court would apply only to the specific case and not to the law of the land, as a whole.

Is that a problem? Maybe not to the far right wing of the Republican Party, which believes we simply don't need a government, but to most of us it represents a serious uncertainty about where our country stands on a number of important issues.

Even after Obama leaves office and the new president is left to make the nomination, how long do we imagine confirmation will take, even if the president is a Republican?  Say tthat president is Trump or Cruz, both of whom are despised by Senate Republicans. Will their nominee get a fair hearing. Will the Democrats filibuster the nominee. Will the Senate play delay indefinitely.

If the president is Hillary Clinton, how easy do you imagine she will have it in getting a nominee approved. Probably the same as Obama. The Republicans, provided they still control the Senate, would not find anybody she wants acceptable, but would they delay an appointment for four more years or eight more years? I would not for a minute doubt that effort.

This game is power politics from a party whose ethics went away many years ago (about the time Reagan was elected) and I'm not sure we will hear the end of it in my lifetime.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Seig Heil! Donald Trump, S.C. Winner

I'm not certain of this photo, except that Saul Loeb of Getty Images gets credit for it. I am wondering if it is not a PhotoShop creation, given that Trump is standing on the seal of the President of the United States.

But boy! is it ever relevant?!?

It was published tonight with the news that Trump won the South Carolina primary, Jeb Bush's virtual home turf. Jeb brought in nearly the whole Bush clan to support him and it got him exactly nothing.

Snuggling in for 'Ripper Street'

Margie and I watching the end of "Ripper Street."
My buddy Janeson Keeley was over for dinner tonight and we decided to watch the final episode of the wonderful British period drama "Ripper Street" afterwards. Janeson got my chair and Margie and I got the sofa, where we often sit if we're watching TV together.

Janeson, of course, was fiddling with her phone. I didn't know she was taking photos with it. This is the result.

By the way, let me strongly recommend "Ripper Street" to those of you who know nothing of it. It is as good a TV series as I've ever seen and it is now all on Netflix.

A Bronco, a Star, a Comic Dude and a Hike

That's colorful me walking down the black and white Mill Mountain trail.
Me in my own comic book (courtesy of PhotoShop).
My buddy Christine Ward and I took a run up Mill Mountain on this spring in winter day and for all the lack of color on the mountain, it was lovely--and jam-packed.

I suspect we're all a little weary of looking at our living rooms, our books, our TVs and, heaven knows, our iPads, and the outdoors beckons on a 60-degree day in the middle of February.

One of the reasons I so love this region is that winter doesn't kill us; it gives us occasional respites so we can renew and today was one of them.

It was cloudy for the most part and the ground was sodden where it didn't have snow left from the early week. But we saw a lot of high spirits and even a 1964 or '65 Bronco, restored and beautiful, but O.J. Simpson was not around to drive it.

Here's a little of what today looked like to the natives.

Comic book Christine and me at the Mill Mountain Star overlook.
I like this shot of two hikers taking a break at the star a lot.
Here's your standard, inescapable view from the Star.
This is the Bronco, sans O.J.

Friday, February 19, 2016

'Adverse Effects' Exposes Big Pharma

Taylor Gruenloh (left) and Katie Mack (right) work with Mike and Amanda Mansfield and Neil Seibel.
Taylor Gruenloh's powerful and topical "Adverse Effects" has been polished to a high shine for its trip to New York and it's at Mill Mountain Theatre's Waldron Stage for you to enjoy for the rest of the weekend and all of next weekend.

This is the gripping story of the death of a young girl that is the result of faulty allergy drug and the response of the pharmaceutical company that made the drug and the company that marketed and promoted it. They are seen here as completely amoral, and at one point the head of the marketing firm (played almost eerily well by Natalie Faunce of "Daytime Blue Ridge") replies to a question about guilt and fault by saying, in effect, kids die in cars and nobody's talking about banning cars.

Gruenloh's work, as usual, is meticulously researched and deliberately presented, building the drama of ordinary people facing wealthy giants who normally crush them. His case is made here with superb direction by Katie Mack and a case of some of Roanoke's best, including Amanda Mansfield as the dead girl's mother, who sparkles as an overwrought, stressed and deeply affected mom whose husband (played by Neil David Seibel) continues to seek some kind of answer for his daughter's death. Her brother, the corrupt university researcher, is ably played by Amanda's husband Michael Mansfield.

James Wise is solid as a small town reporter who grabs the story and won't let go and veteran Ed Sala is convincing as the publisher who wants nothing to do with the potentially explosive story. Mary Ellen Apgar, in just her second dramatic outing, continues to grow at a spectacular rate as the marketing representative who hands out money and her body to researchers willing to sign research papers they haven't even read.

This play, along with Meredith Levy's "Coupler," make up this year's Hollins Festival of New Plays, both of which will be presented in the Bob Moss Theatre in New York in March. Miss Levy's play recently won her a major award to keep her others company.

"Adverse Effects" runs through the weekend of the 26th with evening shows at 7:30 and a Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10. Call the box office at 540-362-6517.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Pictures from a Railroad Town

Train chugs along the Roanoke River in Wasena Park. Double click the photo for a full view.
It was a lovely crystal day in Wasena Park today and the usual train traffic made an interesting and appropriate backdrop for photos. Here's what I shot.

Jogger and train viewed from inside the snow-covered baseball field at Wasena.
Stark reflections in the murky river water.
Snow-covered baseball field in the eerie light. There are tracks in the foreground a train in the background.
My park? You bet it is. Here's proof.
The low-water bridge is coming apart.

A Big Change to a Glorious Old Tree

These two broken limbs won't kill this old maple, but its shape will be vastly different.
This was the maple at its best.
I'd become attached to the old maple, especially when it was at its best in late October.

Every year, I'd make a pilgrimage to Wasena Park in Roanoke with my camera and shoot a photo a lot like the one at the left (which is about 10 years old).

It was with considerable surprise and regret when I walked past this little touchstone of mine and found two of its bigger limbs to be crushed by the ice storm.

Frankly, I know these things happen to trees and they are natural, but I still have some regret. This was such a glorious celebration of fall, and now, even though the color will remain, the aesthetics will change significantly.

I'll try to appreciate the tree for what it is and what it was and hope I can.

Wasena Winter in Black and White

This is the photo of the Roanoke River in Wasena Park that I misplaced yesterday, found this morning.
Roanoke's parks are always lovely, but rarely more so than in the winter with the show, the trees and the river contrasting dramatically.

Yesterday my pal and temporary house guest (because of power outages) Janeson Keeley walked and photographed the park. Hers have been posted. Here are mine.

Love the reflection in the greenway road and the Roanoke River here with the Wasena neighborhood overlooking.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Pampa and the Snow Panorama

My pal Janeson Keeley, who is staying with me tonight because the electricity in her Wasena neighborhood went kaput, took this shot on our walk on the greenway this afternoon. I like it. The panoramic shot I took with my little camera has been lost somewhere, so this is the only one I have ... and it's a good one.

The Artistry of the Ice Melt

Last night, this was piled snow on the rail of my deck. This morning it was snow, covered with a solid, but thin sheet of ice. This is the reaction of the frozen water at 50 degrees a few minutes ago (11:20 a.m.).

It's Mellllll-ting

Ice sucks, but it is gorgeous.
The ship's bell looks coooooold.
Inevitably, the melt comes, though sometimes it seems otherwise. We are in the middle of a heat wave at the moment in Roanoke--it's 41 degrees--and the ice that accumulated overnight is in full melt mode, giving all this mess quite an aesthetic appeal.

The snow has been about as inconvenient for me as any in memory. Yesterday alone I had to cancel appointments (actually, they were cancelled on me) by my dentist and gastroenterologist who was to do a colonoscopy. I was halfway through preparation for the gut probe (which means I'd drunk half of the 64 ounces of laxative and had fasted all day) before I got the call. Which also means, I have to do it all again.

I heard a clicking throughout the night coming from roughly the same spot my heat pump occupies outside my bedroom and investigation this morning showed why. The fan was covered in more than half an inch of solid ice, some of which was hitting the fan blades. I chipped it off with a small hammer and it whirred happily afterward.

Snow is such a lovely, nasty, cruel lover of us all.

The heat pump was a frozen mess, which I fixed.

Fearless Frank was a cold boy.
My deck owl, Barney (get it? get it?), was not amused.
Francois was likely annoyed me at not letting him inside.
What else can you do?
This young spruce in the back yard is tough.
A warm place for the birdies ... but I don't see any.

Quote of the Day: McConnell on Supremes

“The Senate should discount the philosophy of the nominee” ... “The president is presumably elected by the people to carry out a program and altering the ideological direction of the Supreme Court would seem to be a perfectly legitimate part of a presidential platform.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in 1970.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Whispering About David Trinkle's Loss

Vice Mayor Trinkle (center) and Lea (left) at press conference recently.
I have heard more than I expected to hear over the past two days about Roanoke Vice Mayor David Trinkle's narrow loss in Saturday's Democratic primary to Councilman Sherman Lea, a man who truly should not have won.

Trinkle's loss surprised many of us, but my most significant surprise was not his loss (African-American Lea is a church-going leader in a heavily black section of town and he mobilized the church buses for the voting), but that a large number of people really don't like David. At all. They question his competence and his honesty. They say things about him that I won't repeat here.

One woman accused him of indirectly causing the death of her mother. He is a psychiatrist and medication had something to do with the death. I have heard other complaints about him as a physician. As a businessman, I've heard questions about his honesty and his treatment of employees. One person wrote to me, "I've heard it across the spectrum, both about him as a business owner and as a doctor."

"I honestly think a good portion of why David didn't win is because he has a horrible reputation outside of 'rich, white, South Roanoke,'" wrote a South Roanoker. "I have heard horror stories about him for years from all kinds of people. I think his reputation caught up with him this time."

Frankly, I have heard--and generally ignored--whispers about David, a man who has always been cordial to me, though we had significant political differences. I have, upon occasion, blistered his council decisions. I like his wife Anne, a lot. She is a major player in Roanoke art.

This election exposed David's weakness for the first time. In the past, he has been the best accumulator of votes on council (which is why he is vice mayor). But this weekend, he ran into bitter cold, which suppressed segments of the large turnout; a well organized opponent with buses and vans at his disposal (easy in/easy out for the voters); and the questions that have haunted him for some time. I suspect his support was soft at best, and with Lea's appeal to an enthusiastic black base, his 164-vote loss was probably closer than it could have been. 

Although I suspect Leah to be a memorably bad mayor, I'm wondering if David has a political future at all in Roanoke. I think a lot of people are.

One internet message to me said, "I'm sure David could have been more competent [as mayor than Lea] but I couldn't vote for him knowing his level of disregard for the 'little people.' And it bit him in the ass."

'Course all this speculation and rumor could go straight to the toilet if David runs as an Independent and wins--which he well could (there won't be much snow or cold in May). And that's the rumor, since rumor is the coin of the realm of this post.


Can Anybody 'Win' the Supreme Court Showdown? (Hint: Yes)

Obama yucks it up with the Supremes.
My friend Elise Roberts suggested this morning (from Africa, where it must be evening) that "we can't let Obama go without winning this thing," which, of course, is the pending Supreme Court nomination. He will make one and then the Republicans take over and do what Republicans do.

I responded to Elise thusly,

"I don't know what would represent a 'win,' but there are opportunities to put the far right wing in a position of being permanently marginalized (as it once was when the snake-handlers were laughed at and not idolized). 

"One self-perceived 'win' for the GOP would be a Republican freez-out of any potential candidate. Another would be voting down a squeaky-clean, highly respected candidate that they'd unanimously approved for the lower court (Sri Srinivasan). And another would be a stonewalling a minority or a woman who has a good reputation. 

"The only win the GOP can hope for here is a limited one: with the base, which represents maybe 20 percent of the American voting population. But Republicans already have those votes. There is no way for the Republican Party to create new populations of voters (young, colored, poor, minority, etc.) with its strategy--or any strategy that I can foresee, even one that would show it in a completely different light than the one expected."

I'm not sure Democrats can lose here, but I've felt that way many times before and the mule has kicked up the improbable (ever heard of Bernie Sanders?). It appears Obama will nominate--very shortly--an already vetted candidate who holds a high office (probably judicial in nature), and he will do it very shortly, maybe during the recess--as an appointment. That would rile the Republicans and stir the Democratic base to new heights.

A recess appointment--and remember, Obama has done that in the past for lower courts, as did his predecessors, so it would not be unprecedented--would be a bold move and a proper exclamation point on his successful presidency. I'd love to see that. And I would consider it a win.

On the other hand, we could all wait for Clinton or Sanders to move into the White House and appoint Obama to the court. The Repubs would have a mass, joint seizure.