The Walton Arts Center Board seems to be classic proof that while you may work or live in a town, you may not actually be of it.
This is a not a blanket dismissal of all of the members of the WAC board, especially those who have fought valiantly for the best interests of the people of Fayetteville - home of more local artists per square mile than any other community in Northwest Arkansas - but of the “professional” board member types who sit upon that August body.
Said board is currently considering moving the Arkansas Music Pavilion to Rogers, away from its long-time home in Fayetteville.
Peter Lane, CEO of the arts center, was quoted in the Northwest Arkansas Times today as saying, “Our mission for a long time has been to serve all of Northwest Arkansas” - along with his comments about a “multi-campus” approach to WAC’s goals.
Well, build your own damned music pavilion in Rogers, then, and leave the one in Fayetteville alone.
Kudos to Steve Clark, president of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, who wonders why sites such as the available 200 acres near I-540 and Cato Springs Road in Fayetteville have not been considered.
Well, no doubt the Realtors, Tyson and Walmart execs and University of Arkansas folks on the board have an answer. If they do, they should say so, publicly - particularly those who live in Fayetteville.
Then again, just cuz you live somewhere, doesn’t mean you feel any special appreciation for it. Or the people in your own community. Hell, they may not even know anything about the city in which they lay their head down to sleep every night.
This is what you get when you have an “arts” center board whose membership is mainly built up of those who can raise money for the organization, or perhaps are resume padders (oh, don’t look so shocked - every board of directors on the planet has at least one of these parasites sitting on it), or have ties to other organizations.
Note: Not only have I written about non-profit boards in the past, but I have been a board member on several.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if WAC had a number of seats open for local artists?
Painters? Poets? Writers? Photographers? Singers? Dancers? Actors? Directors? And not just well-known ones, at that?
Yeah, I imagine they’ll get right on that one . . .
Oh, and “multi-campus?” Really?
Only a man who is blissfully unaware of the joke made in the 1990s about the design of WAC in Fayetteville - “Somewhere in Georgia, somebody is missing their junior high school” - could utter such a phrase with a straight face.
Quote of the Day
People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us. - Iris Murdoch
And they are usually men, aren’t they?
If one reads letters to the editor, ramblings on Facebook or listens to the rantings on talk radio (where everyone with a microphone is king) we hear cries of “Oppression! Conspiracy! Plots against the American people!” each and every day.
It doesn’t matter if the government is involved in the business of counting calories, enforcing seat belt laws, raising the minimum wage, ensuring worker safety or regulating industries which take advantage of the less well off among us, there are those who are prepared, eyes ever narrowed, voices ever raised in song against what they see as the Dark Hand of Oppression.
Of late, warnings of that oppression have taken an even more strident tone:
The government is “raping” us.
Not actual sexual assault, mind you, though many of those who make the rape claim tell us that “political rape” and real sexual assault - with all of its attendant horrifying reality - are no different from each other.
In fact, as one writer pointed out some time ago, sexual assault affects only one person, while political rape affects us all.
It is almost impossible to express the contempt I feel for such men. They seem totally oblivious to the reality of real sexual assault, and are quite happy to bandy about such terms, thing they are making some sort of legitimate political point.
True, our language has reached certain hysterical levels in recent years, tossing words like holocaust, fascism and Hitler about in a moment’s notice, but the “Political oppression is just like rape, when you think about it,” is more than just intellectual laziness or stupidity.
I suspect it largely comes from men who haven’t opened their eyes to the fact that so many women in their own lives may have been raped at some point, or can just turn off their minds to the pain of another.
It comes, Yapping Reader, from men who are jerks.
Quote of the Day
"The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple." — Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
Local media - especially television news, which greets each new Walmart press release as though it were manna from Heaven - has never had a particularly critical eye when it comes to the behemoth of the retail world.
Never is that adulation more in play than during the annual shareholders’ meeting, when thousands of Walmart employees are trundled together to hear inspiring messages of hope and faith from those at the top of the Walmart food chain, and be entrained by various entertainers.
The pep talks from top management never fail to make it onto the news, as if somehow the folks at Walmart have said said something new, and wondrous.
But the performers? Really? Honestly?
It has always been sort of difficult to take someone like past Walmart entertainer Celine Dion seriously at the best of times, especially after the grotesque performance she gave on Larry King a few years ago, when she warbled a few lines to inspire the folks who were stuck in New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina.
That most of them didn’t have electricity, and probably weren’t listening to her song of hope went completely over her head.
Leaving the unfortunate Ms. Dion aside, this year's shareholders’ meeting will be chock-full of such entertainers - who will receive top coverage from Walmart’s handmaidens in the media.
But just imagine how much cheering might fill Bud Walton Arena should Walmart decide to follow the example of competitor Costco, and pay a starting wage of $11.50, or if the Walton family decided to take a stand to raise the minimum wage in this country.
Now, that would be worthy of front page news.
Quote of the Day
I never knew how soothing trees are - many trees and patches of open sunlight, and tree presences; it is almost like having another being. - D.H. Lawrence
Whenever conservatives get together and talk about the Yesteryear That Never Was, the image of communities coming forth to help folks when they are in financial straits is often invoked, as if somehow the example of folks coming to the aid of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life occurred on a daily basis around this country.
No one was ever allowed to go bankrupt, or into the poor house (real or virtual) and that churches, scout troops and junior high school bake sales would help whenever the rare occurrence of cancer came around.
In fact, I think we all remember the battle cry of FDR: “We really don’t need to help anyone, but my bosses in the Kremlin expect this of us,” when he campaigned for those who had been brought low by life’s cruel circumstances.
I thought about those smug, well-fed, financially well off folks and their Walton’s Mountain (the cool Waltons - not the Wally World Waltons) vision of America when I stopped in at a fast food place to get a cup of coffee last week.
On the counter was a large plastic jar, with a note underneath it, explaining that it was there for donations to help a long-time employee who had suffered a medical catastrophe, and whose medical bills were overwhelming his family.
I put a dollar into the jar.
Fact is, every time I pass the place now, I stop in for a cup of coffee and to put a dollar in the jar.
I think the employees of this establishment are to be commended for putting the jar on the counter. There is no hard-sell - such as when you are at the grocery checkout, and the clerk asks if you’d like to contribute a dollar to a particular charity. The jar just sits there, with no one bringing attention to it, and yet it still manages to have dollars dropped into it.
On the other side of the coin, it is abominable that we must go begging for paltry sums to help offset huge medical bills. It is abominable that so many who claim to be “pro-life” in this country can’t see past birth.
It is abominable that well-fed folk will pontificate that we have “the best health care system in the world,” without even giving a nod to the reality that for many, that health care will always remain just out of sight.
Even without crippling accidents or cancer, many ordinary families must go to doctors who are one step ahead of a lawsuit, or ration their visits to the doctor.
Or treat any and all medical problems with extra doses of Alka Seltzer.
I think about all of this each and every time I drop a dollar in the jar.
The Plaintive Battle Cry of the GOP: Democrats just want voters . . . yeah, so what? Don’t you?
One of the more plaintive snarls one might read in letters columns or on Facebook is that “Democrats just want voters,” as if there is a certain purity in belonging to a political party which seems to have less and less public approval, and seems to go out of its way to insult anyone who might think just a little differently.
I was never a Political Science major, but it occurs to me that it is pretty much the job of the Democratic Party to attract more voters, just as it is with the Green Party . . . and even the GOP.
Claiming that the other side just wants voters (the very same voters you would insult into oblivion) seems a little idiotic to me.
At this rate it won’t be long before conservatives of all stripes, upon losing an election, will claim that they were only running an “education campaign” anyway - the swan song of many losing political campaigns.
Quote of the Day
How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes! - Maya Angelou
Why Those Who Punch a Time Clock Should Pay Attention to the News - Chapter 906
The Scowling One, ever the champion of the working class, has informed his constituents about H.R. 1406, the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013. The House of Representatives passed this piece of legislation last week, and no doubt has high hopes that Democrats in the Senate who take corporate donations will roll over their constituents and vote for this as well.
According to Steve Womack, this simply amends the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) so as to allow private employers and employees to establish agreements that for compensatory time off instead of monetary overtime compensation.
This “option” is already available for those who work for federal, state, and local governments.
Gosh. That’s okay, then. Nothing to see here, folks. Everybody move along, now.
Well, maybe not so much . . .
I imagine that there may be two main reactions to this. The first will be from armchair philosophers who may or may not have punched a time clock for an appreciable period in their lives.
The other will come from those activists who have worked for years in factories, mini-marts, motels or wherever folks work. Their reaction may be loud and strong.
It has been a long time since I have worked for an hourly wage, but I dearly loved overtime pay - even when I hated working the overtime hours. Overtime work means time and a half pay, which can bolster your paycheck in uncertain times.
If it weren’t for overtime, many workers across this country wouldn’t make it financially.
The Democrats in the House, at least, had it right when they referred to this act as the “More Work, Less Pay Act.”
Basically, passage of this act could replace overtime at the time and a half figure with comp time off that a worker might be able to use later, most likely at the employer’s discretion.
The strong supporters of the working class in the GOP (and their paymasters in the business community) claim that this is something that workers actually want, because it would give working women (you know, folks the GOP traditionally falls all over itself to worry about) to get more time off. Also, those who care for sick loved ones will have more time off - but just not quite have so much money to spend on taking care of them, perhaps.
It’s a win-win scenario, damn it!
Well . . .
There are those - who can’t quite grasp the innate love and care for working men and women that went into this bill - who claim that it will also empower employers to require workers to work over their regular 40 hours, without any financial consequences for the employer.
Ah - we never worked overtime for the money anyway, we worked it for the pleasure of hanging out with our fellow employees . . . and our boss.
True, the bill does give workers the right to sue an employer if they feel “intimidated” - but don’t even think about going to the Department of Labor (outside agitators, anyway) for help.
Ellie Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority, had this to say about the bill, “The Republican Working Families Flexibility Act is a fraud and anything but working family friendly. The act simply works to kill overtime pay and allow flex time only to meet the employer’s needs.”
While the White House has spoken out against the bill, the Obama administration has been markedly MIA when it comes to workers’ rights over the past few years. Just imagine a scenario in which President Obama caves on this, as part of a deal to appease Republicans over budget and tax issues.
There are still a few stalwarts in Congress who remember that America is made up of human beings, and not simply campaign contributors, but unless we all pay attention, and keep their feet to the fire . . .
Any guesses on how Mark Pryor might vote on this?
Once again wearing the Shroud of Chagrin: why I deleted yesterday’s blog
Believing that Life is a Work in Progress, I almost never (I can’t recall the last time I have) delete a blog, but yesterday’s entry was such a screw-up on my part that I deleted it last night.
Why am I wearing the Shroud of Chagrin today . . . so soon after removing it?
In my blog on the TV series Gavin and Stacey - both the BBC original and new Fox version - I wrote about the leads, and how young and sexy they are compared to the BBC version, where the leads were appreciably overweight.
But I was wrong. I was looking at folks in the supporting cast, and not the two leads. The two leads in the British version - as in the American version - are not how I described.
I like to blame things like this on my cataracts, but I just screwed up royally (that’s a weak pun, since I am writing about a British show) and Mea Culpa seems to be the only thing I can utter around the house today.
Which is sort of inconvenient, it being Mother’s Day and all.
I got several emails on the subject, including some from England (which I read this morning) asking me about the blog. And I will tell you this:
The people who are fans of Gavin and Stacey seem to be the nicest people in the universe. I’m not sure that Steptoe and Son fans would have been so nice, when pointing out such an error on my part.
Special congratulations (and thanks to pointing me in the right direction) to former Arkansas Times intern Ashlie Atkinson, who will play the role of Nessa on the American version.
Quote of the Day
Winter is not a season; it’s an occupation. - Sinclair Lewis
And here’s the other thing that drives me crazy. They trot out the victims. And I have something I want to say to the victims of Newtown, or any other shooting. I don’t care if it’s here in Minneapolis or anyplace else. Just because a bad thing happened to you doesn’t mean that you get to put a king in charge of my life. I’m sorry that you suffered a tragedy, but you know what? Deal with it, and don’t force me to lose my liberty, which is a greater tragedy than your loss. I’m sick and tired of seeing these victims trotted out, given rides on Air Force One, hauled into the Senate well, and everyone is just afraid — they’re terrified of these victims. - Bob Davis, radio host/former Republican candidate for governor
As I listened to the unrestrained rant by radio host Bob Davis which has made him a household word - at least for this week - I flashed back on the documentary which Rachel Maddow produced some time back for MSNBC on Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber. Mcveigh, who succeeded in killing a number of innocent children in his infamous bombing, told his interviewer that he had no sympathy for the families of those who had been killed in the blast, and that they should “Get over it.”
Frustrated that the so-called “Newtown Effect” lasted more than the hoped-for few weeks, and at a loss to understand it, their argument that the grieving families of those who have been killed by gun violence are being used as unwitting political props falling on deaf ears - except on those already predisposed to believe it - they are now using a new tactic . . . gun owners and defenders of liberty in this country are being bullied by the families and survivors of shootings.
Particularly harsh words have been thrown at former astronaut Gabby Giffords, who also served her country in Congress - two achievements most of the flying monkeys who are scrambling to attack her will never achieve.
James Taranto, of the Wall Street Journal, dismissed an op-ed Giffords wrote for the New York Times, and criticized her for practicing “incivility and unreason.”
Kevin Williamson of The National Review showed much greater courage than Taranto when he wrote, “It should be noted that being shot in the head by a lunatic does not give one any special grace to pronounce upon public-policy questions.”
Just get over it.
A calm approach was urged by Alaska Democrat Mark Begich, when he told the New York Times, “It’s dangerous to do any type of policy in an emotional moment, Because human emotions then drive the decision. Everyone’s all worked up. That’s not enough.”
One can only imagine Comrade Begich taking to the floor after Pearl Harbor, offering this sage advice.
Begich offered no clue as to whether or not he was ever emotional upon getting his “A” rating from the National Rifle Association . . . or their coin.
Attacking the victim has long been a game in America, only now we have moved from attacking just victims of sexual assault to victims to killers. Now the families who will have an empty chair at the dinner table every night and dare to speak out are smeared as “bullies,” and told to get over it.
Those whose bodies have been ravaged by bullets are best kept out of sight, unless they can just be seen as inspirational stories of human endurance. If they dare to speak their minds, to exercise their rights as Americans, they are dismissed as “bullies.”
Poor gun owners, cowering in the night, never knowing when a victim of a shooting might show up in their town, might show up and speak at a public meeting in their community.
In 1976, a good friend and his father were burying their guns in their field, sure that Jimmy Carter would confiscate them once he took office. In 1996, gun shops were warning about Bill Clinton’s anti-gun “agenda” during his second term.
The only answer to such a threat is buy even more guns.
Ironically, this is something that rarely gets covered on the news. Perhaps more guns are being bought, but in many cases, the same people are buying more of them. A local television station is going to offer a “news” segment on gun ownership in the coming weeks, including the number of guns being bought from gun shops.
I suspect they will gloss over this fact.
But I digress (but hey, it’s my blog and I’ll digress if I want to), so back to Timothy Mcveigh’s advice to the families of those he murdered.
“Get over it.”
Morally, those who are venting their wrath on those who have suffered at the hands of gun owners are filling in for Timothy McVeigh, through his very own words, in a manner too creepy to even consider when he himself uttered them before he was executed.
True, McVeigh did renounce his NRA membership, but guess what?
Much is made of the fact that McVeigh was a member of the National Rifle Association, but he also renounced the organization because he considered that their support for gun rights wasn’t strong enough.
Would he renounce his membership today?
Quote of the Day
We are more inclined to regret our virtues than our vices; but only the very honest will admit this. - Holbrook Jackson
Human history is filled with stories of prisoners, every ounce of information being wrenched out of them, who were tortured still . . . because it amused their captors. From the torture chambers of the Inquisition to the scream-filled rooms operated by Central American dictatorships, the story is an old one.
People torture others not so much for whatever information they might glean, but because they well and truly enjoy it.
The torture groupies among us, who get such a thrill from the thought of people they hate being tortured, will in turn torture the English language, in an effort to make the gullible believe that what is happening in the rooms we should never see is just “enhanced interrogation,” and that this is the new normal, so get over it already.
There seem to be two camps in the “Torture is the New American Normal” debate. One, the professionals who have actually gotten information from suspects, dismiss the use of torture, and the torture groupies, those who enjoy sitting in front of cameras and flexing their patriotic muscles, all the while denying that torture is anything but torture.
There seems to be a sort of agreement in the media that the words “enhanced interrogation” will always be used, unless it is on the rare occasion when they interview a critic of torture.
Does the fact that torture is openly debated on TV, radio and in newspaper columns make us better than dictatorships which practice it, or creepier? At least those regimes had the good grace to deny that torture was ever taking place.
In this country, the torture groupies - and those in the government who lack the spine to stand up to them - are making the American people accomplices in their horrors.
So, are those who clamor water boarding - and whatever else might be in a torturer’s arsenal - actually interested in any information which might be gotten from a suspect, or are they so vengeance-driven that the punishment must begin now, even without resorting to a trial?
In the rare event that answers are forthcoming, would they be content to let the torture stop there, understanding what the suspect might be guilty of?
Again . . . Does the open debate on torture in this country make us better than those other countries which have engaged in it, or creepier?
Does it make us better as a people, , or a whole lot creepier?
Quote of the Day
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. - George Carlin
If those in charge of our society - politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television - can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves. - Howard Zinn
Someone pointed out to me that North Korea has been awfully quiet this week, all things considered. Or, at least, our crackerjack news networks haven’t seen fit to cover them.
True, we have had two major events happen in close succession - the Boston bombing and the plant explosion in Texas. Oh, and how our “lawmakers” sprang into action when airline profits were threatened by the government budget battles.
Other than that, though, what else (other than stories about the Boston bomber) have we learned about?
We have seen endless footage of the Royal “baby bump,” with anxious Americans being informed of the child’s role when it comes to succeeding the current Queen of England - roughly, a few thousand supermarket openings and other photo ops to go, kid.
We don’t actually know anything about the oddly-bland made for TV Royal couple, other than what press releases tell us . . . but then, modern journalism lives on press releases.
The opening of the George Bush Presidential Library, which featured fawning reporter after fawning reporter talking to the former president about his new found love for painting.
Som yes, Wagnerian Reader, one might possibly be forgiven for thinking that nothing else happened in the world this week. Except for . . .
I picked up a copy of the New York Times yesterday, just to see if there might have been one or two stories the networks might have let slip through the cracks, and here are some of the nuggets I found:
North Korea Issues Threat At Ceremony For Military - North Korean generals warned that not only were their forces ready to launch ICBM attacks against this country, but that the North is “ . . . one click away from pressing the launch button.” The claim was made that pilots, instead of loading up with fuel for a return trip, would be prepared to launch “kamikaze-like” attacks against this country.
Venezuela Says U.S. Citizen Plotted Unrest - Timothy Hallett was arrested on accusations that he was working with right-wing groups hoping to promote violence, and possibly even a civil war.
Cuba: U.S. Bars Raul Castro’s Daughter from a Forum - Castro’s daughter was to attend a gay rights conference in Philadelphia next week, when she was to receive an award. No explanation was given for the decision to bar her from the conference.
South Africa: Lawmakers Pass Contentious Secrecy Bill - The South African government approved a highly criticized bill would increase the government’s power to restrict access to information.
Agency Halts Trials for AIDS Vaccine - A trial of a possible Vaccine against AIDS was halted because it appeared not to be working, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Cancer Specialists Attack High Drug Costs - More than 100 cancer specialist from around the globe met to take what has been described as the “first step” in banding together in the hopes of persuading drug companies to bring their prices down.
Wouldn’t it be nice if “lawmakers” who get campaign donations from drug manufacturers also felt such concern?
And if this wasn’t bad enough, it takes the excellent HBO documentary series VICE to lay open just what is happening in Europe, while on American TV news all we hear is that folks are in an uproar due to “austerity measures.”
I still cling to the old-fashioned view that knowing things (real things, not conspiracy drenched crap) is important to our culture, and to ourselves as human beings. It sets good example for our friends, and for the young people in our lives, while being pig ignorant, on the other hand . . .
Maybe it’s too late to expect anything of local and national news, but we can expect more of ourselves, and it only takes a few minutes a week to stay informed.
And here is one bit of news a local anchor and weatherman twisted out of all proportion
A local anchor and weatherman were practically giving each other high fives a few days ago, because “the drought is over.”
This headline from the New York Times:
In Midwest, Drought Gives way To Flood.
Deep, deep sigh.
Quote of the Day
The universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human ambition. - Carl Sagan
It wasn’t so long ago - at least in carbon dating terms - that the spot upon which Fayetteville’s Fiesta Square shopping center now stands was a drive-in movie theatre, with a wooded area behind it.
Many will tell you that, yes, they knew a Walmart once occupied the site, but that was also a long time ago. What people really know Fiesta Square for are Hastings, the movie theatre, and Harps grocery. Each of these has helped to make Fiesta Square what it is today.
The news - “covered” by news organizations that can’t look beyond corporate press releases - that Hastings will be closing in June is sad news to everyone who has enjoyed coming to the store over the years. No one I have talked to is happy about the news. Employees, of course, are keeping a stiff upper lip . . . but to shut the store down after so many years, after just a few bad months?
And keep another location open in Northwest Arkansas which is considered inferior in so many ways? This is called corporate common sense.
This week I learned just how much Hastings pays in rent per month, and I was taken aback. My first thought, honestly, was:
“Stores pay this much rent and the parking lot is still this bad?”
But after Hastings shuts its doors in June, it won’t be the only empty store front in Fiesta Square. There are already a handful of empty places now.
The Postal Center will be shutting its doors in October, because the owners are retiring.
One more empty store front.
Harps, which may be extending itself a little too far and wide these days, may not lavish as much attention on the Fiesta Square Harps as it used to, which is sort of odd, considering the part of town it is in. But with the West Fork store perhaps not meeting their expectations, might Harps do the unthinkable and shutter the Fiesta Square facility?
And the movie theatre . . . deep sigh.
Actually, I’m not sure why anybody still goes to this theatre anymore, considering the one up by Wally World. I can’t help but think about the day it might follow the path of the old Malco theatre which used to be across the street, and just showed movies for a dollar - the sort of movies which now go directly to DVD, or you watch when no one else is in the house.
What’s gonna bring shoppers to Fiesta Square once Hastings shuts down? Okay, Harps, but what else?
The bank? Hardees?
Not to worry, though. As each place shuts its doors, the folks on the news will dutifully read the corporate press release . . . and then show you this cute dancing rabbit which is all the rage on YouTube!
Quote of the Day
“Heroes are not giant statues framed against a red sky. They are people who say ‘This is my community and it’s my responsibility to make it better’.” - Former Oregon Governor Tom McCall
I wrote this a few years ago for the Arkansas Free Press (formerly Little Rock Free Press) about my sad forays into electoral politics. I may have lost, but I learned a lot about how small campaigns are run, and to have the greatest respect for folks who get involved with such races, either as a candidate or as part of their team.
How I got a Mandate from the People
Or: Losing three elections isn’t as easy as it looks
1988: Into the Fray
Though I had long had an interest in politics, it had been pretty much restricted to reading about politics and writing many letters to the editor. But then, one day, as I was working in the parts cage at Mexican Original, a man came up and introduced himself to me.
He told me that he had read many of my letters to the editor, and suggested to me that perhaps it was time for me to evolve. I can’t recall his exact words, but “evolve” seems like a good description for our discussion.
A few days later he introduced me to a friend of his, a man who had led the often lonely fight against Fayetteville’s plan to build a solid waste incinerator. He had managed to galvanize the public and this had led to a public vote, in which a majority of voters said, “No thanks” to the proposition.
We became friends, and he began educating me about the ins and outs of Fayetteville politics. I began accompanying him to meetings and met people whose names I had only encountered in news articles and letters columns.
In August of that year I decided to take the plunge - as long as I was “evolving” - to run for a seat on Fayetteville’s city government. At that time Fayetteville had a city manager form of government, supported by a Board of Directors, which elected a weak mayor.
I still remember how cocky I was. “Blood will flow,” I told the City Clerk when I picked up my application forms. Too bad I didn’t realize the blood would all be mine.
As luck would have it, I found myself in a four-man race. I don’t think it will spoil your suspense if I tell you now that I came in last. Of course, at that time, ward races were city-wide. After a while, I just gave up trying to get to all parts of the city with my campaign literature.
Still, as learning experiences go, it was a wonderful thing. I hadn’t yet had any experience in front of a camera, so my performances were pretty stiff, and I said some pretty silly stuff, a lot of which I can’t remember, thank God.
I do remember one of the all time worst political radio spots I’ve ever heard, and it was put on by folks who supported our slate of progressive candidates. The film Good Morning Vietnam had just come out, and so imagine, if you will, a voice bellowing out of your radio:
“Good Morning, Fayetteville!”
With no practical political experience, even I thought this ad was a terrible idea. I didn’t say anything at the time, though. I was still the New Kid on the Block.
I also learned that once you announce for office, you are fair game for every group out there that wants to send you a questionnaire - whether it be newspapers, political groups, or fringe outfits.
Abortion and traditional marriage seem to matter an awful lot to some of the groups who send out questions to candidates. In the beginning I filled them all out, but after a while I just started throwing some of them away.
Even though I came in last, I still managed to get enough votes to make me think that this running for office stuff might have some kind of future for me.
1990: The Year I joined the Republican Party- well, sort of
Anyone can lose one election. Even Bill Clinton managed to do it. But 1990 gave me an opportunity to climb on the horse yet again.
Of course, no one makes the decision to run with the intention of losing in mind; it’s just that sometimes you find yourself in a truly unwinnable race. And so it was that year, as I took on Lyell Thompson, a Democrat who had held a seat on the Washington County Quorum Court since the time of Methuselah.
Well, not quite that long. But long enough that he was firmly entrenched in the seat. Not only that, Lyell was (and still is) a very popular man. And, added to that, I was running as a Republican in a firmly Democratic area. What could have been going through my head?
Well, the man who had persuaded me to run for city board had been sitting on the Washington County Quorum Court for the past two years as a Republican. He wasn’t really much of a Republican, but he never got much support from the Democratic Party when he was fighting the incinerator battle several years before. He thought he could do some good as an elected official, so he ran as a Republican
After a couple years, making motions and never getting a second from anyone else on the court was starting to get to him. In the summer of 1990 he came up with what seemed at the time like a cunning plan.
“Come join the Republican party,” he said to several of us. “You can help liberalize it from within. You can make real changes.”
At least two of us fell for that. We paid our filing fees as candidates, and began attending party meetings. The race was on. Only this time, things were a whole lot different. I’m not saying that the new crowd of people we were hanging out with weren’t nice people - most of them were - but we weren’t exactly among friends.
Some things you learned to keep your mouth shut about. Abortion was off-limits. You didn’t talk bad about Ronald Reagan, or George Bush the elder. You sure didn’t praise the governorship of Bill Clinton.
Possibly the oddest moment during the whole campaign came when I attended the governor’s debate between Bill Clinton and GOP opponent Sheffield Nelson and was honor-bound to sit with the GOP side. It just didn’t feel natural.
And the deal was that nobody really accepted the pseudo-Republicans as anything but Klingons in sheep’s clothing. In fact, the Republican Women’s group, which doled out money to candidates, even voted not to give money to some of us.
But the late Leland “Tiny” Hamilton, who was a good man and a good friend, came to our defense and convinced them to write us some checks. Hamilton, who ran several losing campaigns himself, was often dismissed by reporters as a “gadfly,” but he was much more than that.
But that’s a story for another day.
I enjoyed going door-to-door this time around. I enjoyed talking to people, and when someone wasn’t there, I left my flyer. Of the three times I ran, this was the most fun.
Election Night I hung out at the Hilton with other candidates to watch results come in. This is always pretty nerve wracking, even when you are in the lead, which I wasn’t. No matter how tough you are, it’s hard to restrain tears when the results come in, and all your hard work has gone for nothing.
All that self-serving crap about running an educational campaign, and it not mattering whether you win or lose is just that - unadulterated crap.
Still, I garnered over 40 percent of the vote, which was pretty good. My best showing out of three races, actually. But today, looking over my campaign flyer for that race, my eye fell on one paragraph:
“Our environmental integrity must be protected. Twenty-five years ago we began living in what we foolishly called ‘the disposable society.’ Today, those mountains of trash are beginning to tower over us. We must seize the initiative and safeguard our children’s future . . .”
No wonder they didn’t trust me.
1992: The Race for City Council
June of that year saw the end of a hard-fought campaign to change the form of government in Fayetteville from City Manager/Board of Directors to Mayor/Council. Many things helped to bring about the change, including the bitter public access war that had taken place over the previous winter and spring, in which public access television itself was almost gone from the screens of Fayetteville viewers.
There were many other criticisms of the city manger form of government, of course, but the main argument in favor of change boiled down to this: the new form of government would be more responsive to the people. Voters just weren’t all that keen anymore on the idea of a figurehead mayor, with managers running the show behind the scenes.
It was that summer that I decided to make my last - to date - foray into electoral politics. I felt like this might be my year; aldermen didn’t have to campaign city-wide, but only in their own ward, and I was a little better known this time around. At the very least, I had been doing an interview show (On the Air with Richard S. Drake) on Fayetteville Open Channel for over a year, and was writing a column for Grapevine, an alternative newspaper - which I felt gave some name recognition.
Very little name recognition, as it turned out.
Somehow, once again, I found myself facing multiple opponents. Four, this time around. Please God, don’t let me come in last this time.
So I got my campaign literature ready (and it looked pretty sharp), got ready for my TV debates, and began going door-to-door. But it was different this time around.
My heart just wasn’t in it. Half-way through the election season, I realized that I was bored.
And not just bored the way you are on Sunday afternoon when you are too lazy to leave the house and there’s nothing good on television, and even reading is a chore. I mean really, really bored.
I was bored with the election, bored with the process, and bored with myself as a candidate.
I realized I was becoming one of those politicians, who, like Pavlov’s dogs, begin salivating at the clang of the chime beginning the election season. I had known enough of those candidates, and had written about quite a few of them; now I was becoming one of them.
I still went through the motions; I filled out all the questionnaires (even the insane ones), I participated in television debates, and answered questions for newspapers. There were even issues that I cared very strongly about.
Maybe the last two elections were still too fresh in my mind. Or maybe, as more than a few people pointed out, I was having more of an effect writing about issues, and interviewing people, than I would be as an alderman.
Maybe the voters picked up on that, because I didn’t win that election, either. But I didn’t come in last, which does still count for something. No, I came in next to last.
So I have concentrated on writing about politics, and learning about local government and history, and discovering where the bodies are buried. I interview news makers on my little talk show.
I write books. Life is interesting.
I learned a lot in those three elections. I learned how even tough guys can cry, and how pretentious some people can get. I think that running for office gave me a unique perspective on covering local elections, and I’d recommend it to almost anyone who wants to write about politics.
I learned that ordinary men and women can make a difference, which, while a cliche, really is still true. And win or lose, the sun still comes up after Election Day, and your friends are still your friends. Everybody is your friend if you win, but your real friends are there when you lose.
And I learned that you don’t join the Republican Party in an effort to “liberalize” it from within.
Richard S. Drake is the author of a novel, Freedom Run, and a history of Fayetteville, Ozark Mosaic: Adventures in Arkansas Alternative Journalism, 1990-2002.
Arkansas Free Press - December 2007
Last year I picked up one of those large collections of comic stories in the DC Showcase series, this one featuring stories from The Brave and The Bold, which featured the Batman teaming up with a special guest hero every issue.
Many may only know The Brave and Bold as the lighthearted Batman series which ran on the Cartoon Network for some years, but anyone who appreciates Batman should check out this collection, which runs from B&B #59, April/May 1965 (the first time Batman made an appearance in the comic) to B&B #87, December 1969/January 1970.
I began reading The Brave and the Bold in the Spring of 1969, when the Teen Titans (“Punish Not my Evil Sun”) made an appearance. With art by the famous Neil Adams, it is included in this collection.
It was interesting to catch up again with those who helped the Caped Crusader after so many years in this black-and-white collection. Black-and-white seems to suit the Batman better, especially in the later stories.
Included are some real gems, including a dandy story with Green Arrow (“The Senators’ Been Shot!”).
Most of the stories were written by Bob Haney, with the exception of a Batman/Wonder Woman story by Mike Sekowsky.
What’s particularly intriguing to read in this collection are the various interpretations of Batman through the years, from the straight but lighthearted approach in 1965 to the more dramatic stories of the early 1970s.
And in the middle are the ABC TV show years, when one can almost imagine Adam West himself saying the lines as written. In fact, there a couple of not so sly references to the TV show, just as when Metamorpho tells Batman, “Be seeing you on the TV, pal!”
Well, I’m sure it seemed cute at the time.
My personal favorites are the later stories, including the stories where Batman teams up with Sgt. Rock, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out how this guy in the 1970s ever had a mission behind enemy lines in World War II.
Bob Haney, who wrote most of the tales, had a long career in comics, co-creating the Teen Titans and Metamorpho, among others. But it was his 1965-1979 tenure on B&B which many remember him for.
As evidenced by this collection, Haney was able to switch story telling styles when the times demanded it - straight, camp, gritty.
And with the right artists - especially Neil Adams and Jim Aparo - his writing really shone.
Like many comics writers, though, Haney had woman trouble, meaning that he just didn’t know what to do with them once he had them in a story. Most of them are motivated by a teenage girl type of puppy love for Batman, including an embarrassing story (“In the Coils of Copperhead”) where Wonder Woman and Batgirl compete for some Batlove.
Even when women are heroes, Haney seems unsure of himself. Part of it may be due to the sexism of the period, but it also seems as though he never read the comics these women headlined, where they were heroes in their own right.
Over all, though, this first volume of The Brave and the Bold has much to recommend it, and I have just finished the second volume, when The Brave and the Bold teamed Batman with the popular series, The House of Mystery.
To the Batlibrary!
Quote of the Day
We seek a thousand reasons to accuse vice in poverty, but two thousand to excuse it in prosperity, - J. Petit-Senn
It is easy to be brave from a distance. - Aesop
Arkansas State Representative Nate Bell, who has never seen fit to wear the uniform of his country, nevertheless passed judgement on the courage of others when he Tweeted the following “joke” yesterday:
I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine? #2A — Nate Bell (@NateBell4AR) April 19, 2013
Despite the fact that many seemed to agree with Bell, it must have dismayed him that so many felt repulsed upon upon reading his words.
Perhaps, unlike Bell, they had actually been paying attention to the news this week, and taken in not only the memorials to the killed and injured, but the many stories of heroism, when folks who were not police or emergency personnel stayed to comfort the afflicted, and carry them to safety, even though they did not know if another bomb might go off even as they were helping their fellow human beings.
Nate Bell wasn’t there, not were most of those on the Internet who approved his message. The folks in Boston were.
Maybe Republican Bell had forgotten that a small child was among those who had been killed.
But at any rate Bell, who felt comfortable making a crude joke about the courage of others while he was chortling safely away here in Arkansas, soon felt compelled to issue an apology on Facebook . . . of sorts.
I would like to apologize to the people of Boston & Massachusetts for the poor timing of my tweet earlier this morning. As a staunch and unwavering supporter of the individual right to self defense, I expressed my point of view without thinking of its effect on those still in time of crisis. In hindsight, given the ongoing tragedy that is still unfolding, I regret the poor choice of timing. Please know that my thoughts and prayers were with the people of Boston overnight and will continue as they recover from this tragedy.
Nate Bell is sorry about the “timing” of his joke. In saying so twice, he makes sure that the grieving folks of Boston know he still feels contempt for them; he just shouldn’t have been so excited by what the voices in his head were saying that he had to share what they said with the world quite so quickly.
Like the bully in the bar, Nate Bell wasn’t “thinking” about those his stupid remarks may have offended. He was going for the cheap laugh, to get the approval of the other lurkers in the back of the bar, back there in the dark.
Perhaps Bell, who touts his involvement with the National Rifle Association, felt that this would take some of the heat away, but the damage has already been done.
Not only to Bell, but to Arkansas as a whole, which has already been suffering blows to its national reputation of late due to the hard work of the Men with Bad Haircuts in the state legislature, of which Nate Bell is a proud member.
I suppose it is sort of understandable, in a way. Prior to being elected to this office, Bell’s only other elected position were his three terms as Potter Township Constable.
And nobody pays much attention to what a constable posts on Twitter.
Still, even a former constable might know better than to make such a stupid, monstrously insensitive, joke at a time like this.
But maybe Nate Bell doesn’t know any better.
No doubt he is smarting from all of the media attention (damn media) and comments left on his Facebook page (do politicians ever actually read the comments people leave on Facebook?) but the fact that so many other folks have chortled along with the NRA supporter may have bolstered him emotionally.
He may just decide to wait this out, and read things through three or four times before actually posting them online for the foreseeable future.
If there is any cosmic justice, and if Nate Bell has a modicum of self-awareness left at this point, he should resign from the Arkansas legislature.
I’m not holding my breath, though.
Quote of the Day
Man is least himself when he talks in his own voice. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. - Oscar Wilde
In the several decades I spent punching a time clock, I saw many horrific examples of what can happen to a human body, but no one ever died where I worked, thanks to whatever saints still watch over the American worker.
True, there were stories of a man crushed to death by one of the large industrial robots at a wheel plant I once worked at, but it was before my time.
Even so, 4500 of us were killed on the job in 2010, which was up three percent from the year before.
Last night, scores of our working class brothers and sisters were killed in an explosion in a fertilizer plant in Texas. The sheer number of dead boggles the imagination.
One can only pray it was over in an instant for most of them.
Supposedly, there was a strong ammonia smell last night, and in fact, despite the paranoid rantings of the conservative crowd about OSHA, the plant had not been inspected in five years.
In fact, due to the deliberate under-funding of OSHA (how many workers have to die?) a fertilizer plant such as the one which blew up last night might face an inspection only once every six decades or so.
At some point, sheer moral repugnance must overcome petty political beliefs, and folks must come to the realization that the lives of those who produce our goods and services simply need to take priority over profits.
We can not call ourselves a “pro-life” culture if we don’t honor the men and women who work in this country.
Why it is perfectly all right to make a political issue of worker safety - especially at a time like this
There are those armchair philosophers who would decry any move to “politicize” the deaths of those who worked and died in the Texas plant, but now is exactly the right time.
For years, people who aren’t working class have made issues of their paychecks, their benefits, their health benefits . . . and yes, their safety on the job. They quote Ayn Rand as though she actually knew anything about humanity.
They quote millionaires.
But for any of them to offer their shopworn opinions now, today, this week, would make them the intellectual and moral equivalent of the Westboro Baptist Church.
Quote of the Day
There is more than a morsel in the saying, “He who hates vice hates mankind.” - W. MacNeile Dixon
Offhand, I suppose you can’t get more real than what happens in the bathroom, and yet a prominent toilet paper manufacturer is urging us (or rather, a series of beautiful women in pristine settings) is telling us that it is time to get “real” about what happens in the bathroom.
I can only assume that this is what happens when you stop teaching Health Class in school, so that students can spend more time studying for tests - even basic human plumbing becomes as mysterious as anything found in Shangri-La.
Leaving these Lost Souls behind, however, and getting back to the reality of the bathroom - and more specifically, shopping - one might well confront the myth that this commercial (and others like it) help to perpetuate - that men either do not shop, or have no idea how to shop, save for shaking cans of carrots, trying to figure out the water content.
Oh, like you haven’t done it yourself . . .
When have we not seen men in grocery stores? And not just bachelors, or the boorish husbands, trying to hurry their wives along, because shopping is somehow beneath their sense of masculine pride? Isn't it a little late in the day to go back to 1950s style sexism in TV commercials?
Guys have always shopped, and yes, Vacant Reader, they have been buying toilet paper. True, sometimes for price, though that is a decision one makes rashly (oh! A bathroom pun!) but the smart shopper soon wipes those that product off his list.
Instead, he will learn, as everyone else does, to select a toilet paper for the reasons that everyone else does - because . . . well, just because. But price is the least of our concerns when it comes to the reality of the bathroom.
I’ll believe in the “reality” of these commercials when they include a few guys.
Five Seconds to Air: Broadcast Journalism Behind the Scenes - Bob Losure and the early days of CNN
Bob Losure's story of his time spent in broadcast journalism - both radio and television - opens with an exciting sequence during the beginning of 1991’s Persian Gulf War. Cable News Network (CNN) had worked diligently for some months, using its not inconsiderable clout, to convince Saddam Hussein to allow the installation of a four-wire telephone system in Baghdad’s Al-Rashid Hotel. Because of that effort, CNN was able to broadcast from “behind enemy lines,” and report on what was happening in Iraq when the American air strikes began. In Five Seconds to Air - Broadcast Journalism Behind the Scenes, he tells the fascinating story behind all of that.
CNN was able to leave all other networks in the dust, and claim a place in broadcast history, as three CNN correspondents, in a city subjected to the power of the greatest air power in the world, told the world what they saw and heard. Back home in Atlanta, Headline News (CNN’s sister network) producers and writers broke a long-standing rule and didn’t bother to send their messages across the large newsroom by computer - they literally shouted facts and updates across the room.
Across the globe, eyes were glued to CNN and Headline News for their information. To some degree, it has been true ever since.
Anyone wishing to learn about the early days of the world’s first truly global news network will find Losure’s book fascinating. But it isn’t just a history of the public glories and off-camera dramas which propel this book. Rather, it is the story of a hard working, ambitious young man determined to make his mark on the world. The account follows Losure from his early days at a country western music station, to radio traffic reporting to Tulsa’s KOTV, and finally, Headline News.
Losure recounts tales both tragic and comical, and there is nary a sign of any “aren’t I wonderful” blather so often encountered in other works by journalists.
In addition to his professional life, we become acquainted with his wives and friends over the years. Possibly the most affecting chapter has little to do with the news business, but his battle with testicular cancer in the mid-1980s. He leads the reader though his various surgeries, and chemotherapy regimen, until his victory over the cancer.
t was while he was recuperating that he made the decision to leave Tulsa and head for another arena. Watching television, he couldn’t help but notice that his on-air replacements were doing good work at the station. Sources at the sation told him that they had signed contracts and wouldn’t be moved out of anchoring positions anytime soon. Accordingly, Losure contacted his agent, who began a job search. CNN Headline News had an opening - would he be interested?
The rest, as they say, is history. Five Seconds to Air tells the story of what it was like, creating a network from the ground up. The book relates the days when Ted Turner, CNN’s owner who lived in the on the premises for a time, wandered the building in the mid-morning hours in his bathrobe.
Losure also gives his views on the state of modern television journalism, with its over-reliance on focus groups and consulting firms. Losure left Headline News in 1997, and now makes his living doing corporate videos and taking on speaking engagements.
He has some criticisms to make of the current direction CNN has found itself in, and his views can make us take just a little closer look at the news business.
Quote of the Day
More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly. - Woody Allen, "My Speech to the Graduates"
“If they can’t protect me from their own police who’s going to? I mean I’m worried if I’m going to get home to see my three children and then I find out the person who pulled the gun on me was a person of the law.” - Witness Ronna McAlister, interviewed by Channel 40/29
Billy's Bar & Grill could have been the site of a stupid tragedy a few days ago, when two off-duty police officers (one from Little Rock, the other from Prairie Grove) got into a public fight in a Fayetteville pool hall. During the scuffle, one officer pulled his weapon, and was whirling about in circles, covering the crowd.
After Fayetteville police officers were called to the scene, everything settled down - but no arrests were made.
Evidently, the two officers - who have since been suspended by their respective departments - are allowed to carry weapons in an establishment which serves alcohol.
Of course, sit in any restaurant, and the civilian sitting next to you may well be packing heat, ever watchful, ever waiting, should his services be required. They might even be knocking back a brewski or two, to help with their concentration.
But why the hell would cops feel the need to mix alcohol and guns?
Witnesses at the scene were upset that the cops were allowed to walk, and with good reason. At least for the sake of propriety, and to assure the public that everyone in Fayetteville is treated equally under the law, handcuffs should have been put on, and it could all have been worked out at the station.
Just try getting into a fight in a restaurant even without pulling a gun, and see where you might spend the night. Try waving a fork around, for good measure.
Just because the Men with Bad Haircuts in the Arkansas legislature seem to feel that an armed society is a polite society, is no reason for folks to hitch a wagon to their rapidly tarnishing star. Sometimes that thing called common sense should creep in, and you should think twice about slipping that gun into its holster before going out for a night on the town.
Especially if you are a police officer.
You can’t drive when you have been drinking too much, but you can carry a weapon, and wave it around like Barney Fife at a bachelor party? With no immediate consequences?
Okay . . .
Quote of the Day
Most of us would be far enough from vanity if we heard all the things that are said of us. - Joseph Rickaby
A YIMBY article - Yes In My Back Yard. A rabid Fayettevillian criticizing Walton Arts…
as a wac board member representing the city of Fayetteville, i'd be happy…
Reading the title, I thought “It must be a typo; he must have meant ‘women.’”…
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