Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tim Donner Withdraws from U.S. Senate Race

Tim Donner in Richmond
Norman Leahy had the story first at Bearing Drift: 

U.S. Senate candidate Tim Donner has ended his quest for the Republican nomination to succeed retiring Senator Jim Webb.

That leaves four candidates in the Republican field:  former Governor George Allen, Bishop E.W. Jackson, political activist Jamie Radtke, and lawyer David McCormick.  Although Tim Kaine is the likely Democratic nominee, he also faces at least one opponent.

Donner's announcement came at 4:00 p.m, but 45 minutes earlier he telephoned me to give him a personal heads-up.  I took the opportunity to interview him about his decision and about his plans for the future -- including whether he might consider a third-party bid for the U.S. Senate or any other elective office.

The interview has been published in two parts on Examiner.com:
Exit interview, Part I: Senate candidate Tim Donner withdraws from race

and

Exit interview, Part II: U.S. Senate candidate Tim Donner ends campaign
In a part of the interview that was not published, Donner said to me:
Thank you, Rick, and I just want to say I’ve always respected your reporting. You have been more pro-active than almost any of the other journalists that I’ve come to know in the course of this campaign.

One of the things that struck me the most about the media, and I always knew there was a left-wing media bias, that was nothing new to me, but what I didn’t realize was just how lazy so much of the media has been in their unwillingness to do anything more than repeat press releases and poll results and fundraising efforts and FEC reports.

You’ve been out there on the scene, watching people speak, watching them interact, interviewing them in person, and so I have a great deal of respect for the work that you’ve done.
I wasn't seeking praise, but I certainly appreciate it.

I hope the other candidates I have interviewed -- including Allen, Kaine, McCormick, and Radtke -- feel the same way. I do all I can to be fair, even to interview subjects with whom I disagree profoundly (examples include Tim Kaine and Tom Perriello).

By coincidence, Donner's announcement came on the same day that former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson ended his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination and announced he will instead seek the Libertarian Party's nod.


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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas in Milwaukee - 1967

Back in 2008, I offered my recollections of how my family celebrated Christmas as I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s.

Now I have some videos to illustrate those memories.

I have transferred some ancient home movies, filmed with a Super-8 millimeter camera, to digital format. Through them, one can follow the holiday celebrations of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the year 1967.

Yes, 44 years ago. Almost half a century. I was eight years old. I don't remember what it was like to be eight years old, but at least I can see myself then again.

First, the early evening of Christmas Eve. On this occasion, the rotating responsibility of hosting the Czuta family and its branches by marriage (Benkert, Geilenfeldt, Jaeger, Michalak, and Sincere) fell to my parents, so the party was held at our house in Wauwatosa.

Can you believe that one acceptable Christmas present in those days was a decorative ashtray? (Watch carefully and you'll see it.)

Next, my family took to the road -- no doubt leaving the wrapping paper on the floor and half-empty highball glasses on the bar -- to visit with the Sincere family. The first sequence is at my grandparents' home on North 49th Street, with most of my dad's brothers and sisters (especially those who were not yet married) finding their way there as well.

The later sequence is at the home of my Uncle Bill and Aunt Lucy. Note the several pre-teen boys dressed in tacky Batman costumes. (Adam West would appreciate the gesture if not the execution.) Christmas Eve was about the only time that we kids were allowed to stay up well past midnight. My guess is that this footage was shot around 2:00 a.m., even as Santa Claus was gliding up above to deliver his presents to all the good girls and boys.
I'm sure if I uploaded just the 30 seconds or so of the Batman boys, that video would go viral.

Finally, Christmas morning arrives and it is time to open up those presents left behind by St. Nick.

The first 3'30" of this video takes place at the foot of the artificial Christmas tree at my own family's home on West Derby Avenue in Wauwatosa. The gifts that I open up, as toy poodle Tabitha bounds through the discarded wrapping paper, include a toy called "Incredible Edibles" and a "GI Joe Official Space Capsule," commemorating NASA's Gemini program. I also received a bowling ball (it weighed eight pounds, one pound for each year of my age, and did not yet have finger holes drilled into it).

Later, we traveled to the home of my grandparents, Chester and Josephine Michalak, on Spring Drive in Brookfield. Santa left behind a big haul for me and my cousins, Julie and Sheri (my sister, Cathy, and their sister, Jennifer, had not yet been born; our other cousins, Jason and Chris, were more than a decade in the future). Apparently I really liked that tacky Batman costume, since I wore it Christmas morning.
Whether this was a history lesson or simply an exercise in nostalgia, I don't know.

In any case, I wish you a Merry Christmas (1967!) and a Happy New Year!
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top Ten Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner Stories for 2011

Much of my effort in on-line reporting during 2011 has been devoted to regular contributions of articles to Examiner.com as the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner.

Last week, I decided to investigate the top ten most popular stories of 2011, based upon the preferences of the readers of the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner, using statistics made available through Google Analytics.  No real patterns emerged.  Several of the favorites were about Virginia politics, others were interviews with national celebrities; the number one story was about a movie.  All of them were published during the calendar year 2011 and none were carryovers from 2010.

Surprisingly, two articles that used "porn" in the headline did not break the top ten:  "Library of Congress collects pornographic films, violent video games" (published November 4) and "Porn king Larry Flynt defends free speech in Charlottesville" (published November 6).

Apparently adult content no longer has the cachet on the Internet that it once had. Not so long ago, using words like "porn," "erotica," "panties," or "scrotum" would be a surefire path to search engine optimization (SEO). Paraphrasing a Supreme Court decision and replacing "penumbra" with "aureola" was pure traffic-enhancing gold. But, it seems, no more.

For reasons of space, I ended up publishing three "Year in Review" articles on Examiner.com, dividing the top ten into groups of three, four, and three.

What follows is just the list of the ten most popular Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner articles of 2011. To see the annotations, please visit the original year in review pieces published on December 16, December 17, and December 18.

#10 - NEH chairman Jim Leach talks about ‘civility’ in Charlottesville
[Published March 17, 2011]

#9 - Disappointment as Va. House subcommittee votes to keep pot possession a crime
[Published January 17, 2011]

#8 - Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell says GOP stands for ‘equal opportunity for all’
[Published October 26, 2011]

#7 - Libertarian writers Welch and Gillespie unveil the ‘Declaration of Independents’
[Published July 19, 2011]

#6 - Virginia’s school supplies ‘tax-free holiday’ more complicated than necessary
[Published August 4, 2011]

#5 - Attorneys Ted Olson, David Boies discuss Proposition 8 and gay marriage at Cato
[Published May 18, 2011]

#4 - Charlottesville write-ins reveal voters’ allegiance, impishness
[Published November 9, 2011]

#3 - Libertarian reactions to the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces
[Published May 2, 2011]

#2 - Gary Johnson wins RLC straw poll, places third in CPAC poll
[Published February 13, 2011]


Drum roll, please...

#1 - 'Atlas Shrugged' movie: Audience reactions mixed, box office returns respectable
[Published April 17, 2011]

Next year will bring new topics, new stories, new personalities and -- eventually -- a new year in review article.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

The Little Typo That Could

Over on the most-neglected of my three blogs, Where Are the Copy Editors?, I have only created one post during the entire calendar year of 2011.  Yet it's proven to be unusually popular, with dozens of hits within a couple of hours of publication.

Headlined "By Far the Best Typo of 2011," it points the reader to a howler of a typographical error in a new book by Craig Shirley called December 1941: 31 Days That Changed America and Saved the World. (Suffice it to say that the book is rife with errors of all sorts. In the chapter I read last night, Shirley used the word "causality" when he meant "casualty." Every page has some kind of mistake like that, and each one could have easily been caught by an editor in the manuscript stage. Such things should never even make it to galley proofs.)

In any case, this very funny typo -- you have to read the original post to get the full impact -- has, relatively speaking, gone viral.  ("Relatively" meaning nowhere near as popular as the Lindsay Lohan Playboy photos.)

I Tweeted a link to the post that was reTweeted by the popular Wisconsin Twitter personality, MissPronouncer.


Then it got picked up elsewhere on Twitter and repackaged with a clever pun:

I'm not sure whether the retweet by @MissPronouncer or the new Tweet by @jbelmont was the driver for it, but the thing is, for a blog that had an average of zero views over the past four weeks, to get 75 or 100 hits within a few hours is, as I say, "viral," in a humble and relative sense.  It's also great fun.

I have not yet finished reading December 1941 but I do wish that I had started with a blue pencil on page one, just to keep track of all the bad editing of an otherwise entertaining and educational book.

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Replying to Critics of My RTD Piece on Theodore Roosevelt

Over the weekend, the Richmond Times-Dispatch published an opinion piece I wrote with the headline, "Why does Obama channel racist TR?"  It ran in six columns across the top of the Op/Ed page on Saturday, accompanied by a photo of Teddy Roosevelt.

In the article, I take note of President Barack Obama's recent speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, a small town that had been the location of an earlier speech (in 1910) by former President Theodore Roosevelt, in which he introduced the phrase "a square deal" as the theme of his upcoming campaign to regain the presidency.

Roosevelt split the Republican party in 1912, forming the Bull Moose party as a vehicle for his planned return to office, while the GOP nominated the incumbent, Roosevelt's hand-picked successor, William Howard Taft.  The divide between factions of the Republican party led to the election of Woodrow Wilson.

The key paragraph in my Times-Dispatch piece was this:
The sad fact is, Theodore Roosevelt was an unabashed racist who celebrated genocide. He was a Nobel Peace Prize winner who glorified war and facilitated the Japanese conquest of Korea. He was a eugenicist who thought only fit people (as he, or the government, defined them) should be able to reproduce.
My point in bringing this up was that it is strange that the country's first African-American president would want to wear the mantle of a man who, according to most accounts (and his own words), held non-white races and non-Anglo-Saxon ethnic groups in contempt.


For my article, I drew on the works of scholars like Thomas J. Dyer, author of Theodore Roosevelt and the Idea of Race. (The fact that a book with a title like that exists should be an indication of Roosevelt's problematic views.) Another historian I cited was Nancy Carnevale, who cited Roosevelt's disdainful views of immigrants from southern Europe in her book, A New Language, A New World: Italian Immigrants in the United States, 1890-1945.

Even the Miller Center at the University of Virginia noted that Roosevelt
did little to preserve black suffrage in the South as those states increasingly disenfranchised blacks. He believed that African Americans as a race were inferior to whites
I also quoted directly from Roosevelt's own writings.

Although I have written articles for the Richmond Times-Dispatch in the past (for instance, "Third Party Resurgence Seems Unlikely," published on August 7, and "America Could Use a Good Dose of Calvin Coolidge," published on July 4, 2010), none has received the kind of reaction that this one has.

There were comments left on the Times-Dispatch web site (and propagated through Facebook) and I also received several emails, some critical, some congratulatory, in reply to my piece.

What follows are replies to most of the comments I received, either directly or through the RTD web site.  If you haven't read the original article yet, it may be helpful to do so before tackling the responses.

One of the emails and one of the commenters took me to task for misrepresenting how Texas came to be part of the United States.

The email correspondent wrote:
Not to make a big issue, but Texas was not 'annexed' by the USA. Texas was an independent nation in 1936 and joined the Union later.
Similarly, a published comment stated:
Texas was a republic, a separate country, from 1836 to 1845. The United States annexed Texas in 1845. Do your homework!
I did, of course, do my homework before mentioning "the annexation of Texas and other territories formerly belonging to Mexico" in my article.

In fact, the United States annexed Texas in 1845. The governing law passed by the U.S. Congress to join Texas to the United States, passed March 1, 1845, was entitled "Joint Resolution for Annexing Texas to the United States." The controlling legislation from the Republic of Texas, passed in convention on July 4, 1845, was called the "Ordinance of Annexation." (The texts of both those laws can be found on the web site of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.)

Another email came from a self-described "retired history teacher."  Given the lapses in grammar, spelling, and punctuation in the message, I print the text in full (first paragraph omitted here but shown later in this post):
Obama our nation's first Black president is trying to say that Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican, who was " progressive" and willing to move forward instead of being like the Republicans today who only move backward or not move at all. It is not about race? Its about vision of the future.

Teddy Roosevelt preached against greed of big business and worked hard to break up monopolies.

No where in your article do you mention that. If Obama understands that, why can't you?

In order for him to be re-elected our country will have to get over the race issue. Too much anti-Obama is about race. For this southern white male, and retired history teacher who supports Obama and will vote for his again no matter who the Republican is. If you think about it, it may be that your article; why would this Republican newspaper use it? To tell everyone not to forget that Obama is Black. You did it for them. Thanks alot.
Other writers (e.g., Jim Powell and Gene Healy) have addressed Roosevelt's domestic policies with regard to business and economics; that wasn't the point of my article, and that's why I did not "mention that."  I chose to write about a different topic.

What I find most odd about this emailer's complaint, however, is that he seems to imply that my article decrying racism had a hidden racist message. If so, he finds more irony in what I wrote than what I found in Barack Obama's wish to emulate a racist politician.

And, if there are Americans who are unaware that President Obama is African-American and need my reminder... well, those people shouldn't be voting in the first place. Ignorance has no place in the voting booth.

Another email correspondent writes:
This morning I read your piece on Teddy Roosevelt. It was an interesting read. Near the end you referenced two quotes from letters Roosevelt wrote, one to Charles Davenport and another to an unnamed recipient. It's my opinion that neither of these quotes supports your argument that Roosevelt was a racist as he not once makes mention of race as a factor in his breeding philosophy. You offer no additional support for how these quotes demonstrate TR's rascist views.
To a certain extent, this point is valid. The quotations about Roosevelt as a eugenicist to not, in themselves, prove he was a racist. But what I was trying to do by citing them is to prove he was a eugenicist, and eugenics was largely (but not entirely) based upon racist beliefs. Prominent eugenicists like Margaret Sanger were not shy at all about expressing the racist (mostly anti-black) roots of their aims.

In that regard, a third correspondent, unaware (I believe) of the others, wrote this:
A year or so ago, I read the book "The Imperial Cruise" by James Bradley, which detailed much of what Roosevelt believed and stood for, his speeches and his actions. He was truly a bully and his beliefs concerning Eugenics, interracial marriages and his encouragement to Japan to become the dominant force in the Pacific were horrifying. By the time I finished the book, I have been wondering how we could blast his face off Mt. Rushmore without damaging any of the remaining three.
One of the commenters on the newspaper's web site seems not to have read the article I wrote because he assets:
TR was no racist. In fact, his views on race unusually progressive just like his politics in general. He believed all people should be treaty like human beings. As for his war record, there was none. In fact, he won a Nobel Peace Prize. Your reading of American history is flawed and biased. He was a patriot.
My high school debate coach taught that "he who asserts must prove." I provided evidence for my contentions, but the commenter does no more than gainsay my argument. This is not argument at all, just contradiction. The fact that I mention the dubious circumstances under which Roosevelt received the Nobel Peace Prize apparently slipped this commenter's grasp altogether.

Other correspondents and commenters rationalize Roosevelt's racist attitudes by suggesting that he was a man of his time or that he was no different than other public figures before or since.

Said one, in an email with the subject line "Your RTD Blog on TR" (has the line between blogging and newspaper opinion-writing become that porous?):
All heroes have feet of clay………………… Grow up………………………. Martin Luther King was a huge racist and adulterer…………………. Why don’t you ponder that for a while.
And another:
The same column could be written about Abraham Lincoln by harping on his placing preservation of the Union above freeing the slaves.

And the same has been said many times of Ronald Reagan, and that is far more relevant to today's political discourse.
And this one, which arrived in my email box after I began composing this blog post:
Mr Roosevelt was a product of his times; employing the teachings of evolution and carrying them out in his beliefs! Evolution teaches that life came from a simpler life form to a more larger and stronger life form. That only the strong survive and the weak fail to continue. Obama simply has no clue about the historical facts of the presidents he desires to emulate and should perform more research before he comapres himself to one of the characters of history.
Finally, the "retired history teacher" cited above began his email to me with this:
By our standards today every white male would have been racist in Rossevelt's time. By that same standard today every Black male would be racist towards whites.
I actually reject that thought. While the turn of the 20th century was no picnic when it comes to race relations -- the reprehensible Virginia state constitution of 1902 is evidence of that -- there were, in fact, principled individuals who believed fully that "all men are created equal" and who worked hard to achieve racial harmony in the face of great odds.


This was the time, remember, when groups like the NAACP had their beginnings. It was also the time, to be sure, of D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation, which inspired a resurgence of the KKK in the North as well as the South, and the time during which Woodrow Wilson ordered the re-segregation of public facilities in Washington, D.C.

Had it not been for those early pioneers in civic activism, law, and the humanities who fought against racism, jingoism, and eugenics, the accomplishments of the later "civil rights era" of the 1950s and '60s would have been that much harder to achieve. Were it true that "every white male" was racist toward blacks and "every Black male" was racist toward whites in 1900 and the years that followed, the civil rights movement could never have reached the launch stage.

Progress requires a core group of people of good faith who are also kind, thoughtful, fair-minded, and intelligent.  That people like Roosevelt and Wilson lacked those qualities is a good reason for us today to reassess their political legacies.

I am looking forward to any letters to the editor that appear in the Richmond Times-Dispatch in reply to my article. Once they are published, I will post links as an update, below.
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