October 25, 2002

Profiling: Who we’d like to be responsible.



Thanks to a friend for alerting me to Jonah Goldberg’s column in Opinion Journal about the prejudiced practice of criminal profiling.

According to the media’s sniper coverage, profiling’s wrong when it could be used to prevent crimes, like at airports, but okay when it could be used to bash white men, as in the sniper case.

As usual Mark Steyn puts the case perfectly when he writes about Dr. Michael Welner’s recent appearance on CNN:

Dr. Welner is a forensic psychologist and the inventor of the “Depravity Index,” which measures whether a crime is “vile” or merely “heinous” or maybe “heinously vile.” Unlike all the other members of the various panels of criminologists on CNN that day, Dr. Welner’s analysis does at least have the merit of being probably correct: It seems likely that in killing nine people the sniper is acting against society.

But let’s try and put together a more detailed psychological profile: It’s clear we’re dealing with someone who craves publicity, who derives some kind of sick thrill out of what he’s doing, whose sense of superiority is fed by the kick he gets being one step ahead of the cops, whose need to express his fantasies leads him to repeat the act again and again, until eventually his arrogance causes him to slip up, he gets careless and sloppy and Larry King’s producers say, “Screw him. Let’s book some other expert for tonight’s show.”

But enough about the psychological profilers, what about the killer?


Black anti-American Muslim sniper? Back to Central Casting.

Goldberg points out what should be common knowledge by now: Everybody was dead sure the sniper was a disaffected white loner. Had to be white. Just had to be. “This person is kind of a wallpaper white male, a disenfranchised, disrespected man who’s getting back at society,” Brian Levin, a criminologist and director of the Center for Hate and Extremism in San Bernardino, Calif., told the Christian Science Monitor on Oct. 9. “That’s one of the reasons he’s kept his distance from inner D.C., where he might lose his cover.”

Goldberg writes “A seemingly endless parade of profilers, ex-cops, ex-FBI agents, security experts, hostage negotiators, criminologists and forensic psychologists – or people who just play them on TV – insisted that the Washington-area sniper would have to be a Caucasian male loner… Phil Donahue represented the conventional wisdom nicely when he gleefully insisted that the sniper had to be white.”

Why? Are whites somehow more prone to sniper-style crimes than anyone else, or is the national media just really, really hungry for a white male to bash these days? Haven’t had one recently, the news has been entirely too full of non-whites doing bad things, the media’s anxious to get back on message and find – preferably conservative – white men doing bad things.

Because in point of fact the litany of terrible crimes these days is an almost exclusively multicultural undertaking. 9/11 was brought to you by an admirable patchwork of national identities. The sniper, we now learn, is a black anti-American Muslim.

James Allen Fox, a respected criminologist at Northeastern University (who, as Goldberg notes, favored the Caucasian icy-loner scenario) collects a database of sniper homicides. He found that “out of 514 sniper murders between 1976 and 2000, 55% of the murderers were white. This,” Goldberg writes, “of course, would mean that whites are actually underrepresented among the ranks of sniper-serial killers. One can only assume that in a better world this increasingly influential subculture will look more like America.”

Get ready to “understand” John Allen Muhammad.

So we find out the sniper is a black anti-American Muslim – three of the very groups most cherished by the media today. I have any amount of money anybody would like to bet saying the coverage of John Allen Muhammad –a fraction of the coverage which would have been had he been a white non-Muslim man – will focus on his troubled past, his inner demons, his being almost forced by a white Christian male-dominated society to resort to converting to Islam and therefore regarding killing people as an acceptable way to protest that which he does not agree with.

I mean, certainly he couldn’t have done it just because he’s a twisted person. The media will strive mightily to present his actions in the context of the various indignities and prejudices Mr. Muhammad suffered from on a daily basis until it will almost seem as if the victims themselves should be on trial for what they did to this poor man.

Admirable restraint.

“On Wednesday night,” Goldberg writes, “the networks showed admirable restraint in not revealing the name of the alleged sniper… one can’t help wondering whether they would have been so responsible if the suspects hadn’t been black and the leader a Muslim.” Exactly. Had it been cracker Joe Bob Thompson the name would have been plastered everywhere possible.

Even now the media is loath to report on the government investigating Mr. Muhammad’s associations with the Ground Zero USA private military training camp. Goldberg writes that Scotland Yard learned from Zain-ul-Albidin, a captured and alleged al-Qaeda supporter, that the camp was being used to train terrorists on American soil. James Ujaama, the Seattle-based Muslim black activist who is under investigation for ties to al Qaeda has also been linked to the Alabama camp.

Whether or not John Muhammad is found to be part of this is an open question at this point. But, as Goldberg says, the fact that federal authorities have searched the camp in connection with the sniper raises the question of why the press has failed to note any of it.

Of course had he been the white supremacist male loner the press was slavering for they would have exercised the same restraint. Certainly.

October 24, 2002

Blake.


A while ago I posted about our younger son Blake’s double cataract surgeries. Many thanks to all who prayed for him and asked to be kept informed of his progress.

He came through both operations with flying colors, thanks to Dr. Ed Wortham V of Richmond Eye & Ear Hospital, and his vision is fine.

Here’s a picture of Blaker boy:

Thought for the day… week… month… year…



Most of us anti-idiotarians here in blogdom would identify ourselves as conservatives. Here’s what one of the greatest minds of the 20th century, G.K. Chesterton, had to say about the conservative theory:

“We have remarked that one reason offered for being a progressive is that things naturally tend to grow better. But the only real reason for being a progressive is that things naturally tend to grow worse. The corruption in things is not only the best argument for being progressive; it is also the only argument against being conservative.

“The conservative theory would really be quite sweeping and unanswerable if it were not for this one fact. But all conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change.

“If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution. Briefly, if you want the old white post you must have a new white post.”

The Pope & Sex in Toronto


Again, from our lovely and talented Toronto correspondent, marketing wunderkind Sarah Welstead:

“There WERE a lot of geeks in town for the Pope’s visit, and a lot of people equally angry. People did not like it that the city spent a fortune to protect the Pope while there were still homeless people on the streets.”

Ye shall always have the poor with you, Sarah, but ye shall not always have the Pope and the retail bonanza which followeth.

“The guys in the studio next to ours had a big contract with the Catholic church to write music and produce promotional stuff for the event. They are young, like 22 or so.”

How’d they beat you out for that? Was it the Jewish cross-marketing proposal?

“Interestingly, all our work with Trojan this summer brought us to the conclusion that kids under 25 are not having nearly enough or even as much sex as those of us over 30 were having at the same age.”

Speak for yourself.

“It was kind of astonishing in a horrifying way to watch 24-year-old men in bars say to girls ‘I want to get to know you better before we have sex’ – and MEAN IT.”

In a Biblical sense 24-year old guys in bars frequently want to know women.

“All my over-30-and-single girlfriends are happy at the new emancipation that means they can date the under-25 crowd, but end up frustrated when the guy won’t sleep with them by the 3rd date, instead wanting a COMMITMENT.”

I think it’s time for guys to let girls in on a trade secret: If your fingers are crossed when you promise to be committed it’s not really a promise. Try it, seems to work for us.

“Yipes.”

Amen.

October 23, 2002

“A rebellion against rebellion.”



A good friend of mine from Washington, D.C. recently converted from evangelical Protestant Christianity to Catholicism. He points to Pope John Paul II as a contributing influence in his decision. Colleen Carroll’s new book The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy finds he’s not the only one seeking more substantial doctrine and authoritative, inspiring structures for his faith.

Me, I’m a Protestant, but the brand name – Methodist, Episcopalian, Baptist – doesn’t matter. Currently my family and I worship with First Mennonite Church of Richmond. We had joined Trinity Baptist in Connecticut before moving here. In high school I was a member of a Presbyterian church, and in college I attended an Anglo-Catholic church.

For whatever it’s worth I consider Catholicism an “other” expression of Christianity, as Orthodox Christianity. I wouldn’t speak of “converting” from a Presbyterian church to a Mennonite one, but I would speak of converting from a Protestant church to the Roman Catholic communion and vice versa. Of course Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Moonies and Unitarian/Universalists have nothing whatsoever to do with Biblical Christianity; leaving a Christian church to become a Moonie isn’t converting, it’s apostasizing.

“John Paul II, We Love You.”

My newly-Catholic friend makes much of the astonishing turnout to see John Paul II at the World Youth Day 2002 held this summer in Toronto. Seeing hundreds of thousands of youth standing chanting “John Paul II, we love you” must have been an indescribable experience. As Colleen Carroll finds in her book The New Faithful, however, it shouldn’t be so surprising.

According to Carroll the youth of today are tired of the culture of permissiveness, anything goes, find what rules work for you – but don’t bother me with them. They’re eager – thirsty – for structure and meaning greater than “If it feels good, do it.” As early as the 1980s, she argues, Pope John Paul II sensed the longing of the young for identity and structure and saw in it an opportunity to solidify the church for future generations. Carroll finds equal numbers of young adults turning to strong evangelical Protestantism as well, but seems to spend more time on Catholics.

That’s certainly one thing Catholics do well, they can do structure and identity. We Protestants have a hard time with strong central control, we prefer a more individualistic faith with more personal variance. Hold to the central beliefs – Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross, his Godliness and humanity, virgin birth, death and resurrection – but allow personal preference on that which does not strike to the heart of being a Christian. It might not be too breezy an analogy to say Protestants want God to give them the ingredients for a banquet and Catholics prefer sitting at a prepared table.

Today's priests more conservative.

This taste for the tried and true over the trendy and easy among Catholics is expressing itself in ways that will endure after John Paul II shuffles off this mortal coil. A recent Los Angeles Times article found “[y]ounger Roman Catholic priests in the United States are markedly more conservative than their elders… reflecting a global trend toward Christian orthodoxy that is reshaping the world’s largest church.”

A Times poll found that clerics “under age 41 expressed more allegiance to the clerical hierarchy, less dissent against traditional church teachings, and more certainty about the sinfulness of homosexuality, abortion, artificial birth control and other moral issues than did their elders...” Fully 75% described themselves as “more religiously orthodox” than older priests.

Seeking something more.

Carroll sees this “rebellion against rebellion” among young adults today expressing itself in a newfound ardor for the Latin Mass and chastity movements. Carroll finds the young of today rejecting their parents’ faith in money, seeking a higher meaning. A 1999 study by Barna “found that 42 percent of baby busters – those born between 1965 and 1983 – were likely to attend church weekly, as compared to 34 percent of their baby boomer parents. The busters also were more likely to read the Bible (36 percent to 30 percent) and to pray (80 percent to 70 percent).”

I suppose the brainless lefties “protesting” globalization by picking fights with cops in Seattle are, in their own useless way, expressing the same desire for something more. This is what remains so appealing about the ‘60s, as I’ve said elsewhere: That sense of reaching past what’s here and now for what could possibly be, a yearning God Himself planted in our hearts to keep us reaching to Him.

Gallup’s polling data from the past 25 years show that today’s teens are less likely to use alcohol, tobacco and marijuana and more likely to want abstinence taught in school. I remember Grace Slick – someone who should know – once saying something along the lines of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll are okay for a while, but you can’t live like that. As today’s youth are finding out.

Keep it real.

A friend of mine involved in Catholic ministry to college students says in his opinion John Paul II’s “preference” for the young extends back to his own college ministry in a Communist country. “I am sure,” my friend says, “he would tell you that the youth of the West are just catching up with older trends in other countries. I have sent off his two addresses in Toronto to Protestants with some connection to youth ministry, with a note saying, ‘See, don’t talk down to them.’”

He finds that the students he works with “respond to a higher call, and to real challenges. They have also had an entire education from people who spoke softly to them in the clinical feel-good terms of pop psychology, and they know very well that that does nothing to help you get through life’s very real, very harsh difficulties. Strong terms, deep doctrine, good translations: that’s what they want, that’s what we should give them.”

According to a Wall Street Journal review of the book – I haven’t read The New Faithful yet, it’s on the list – Carroll finds that today’s generation “wants rock-solid beliefs with a bit of religious mystery, is willing to make sacrifices for personal holiness, will trust authority that proves to be trustworthy and is unafraid to take on the larger culture.”



As G.K. Chesterton discovered almost a century ago, the romance of Christian orthodoxy is a greater high than anything the world offers. Too bad the American generation which wasted so many lives, so much time and money in search of the perfect high never tuned in.

Carbon claptrap.


More on the myth of global warming.

Got a contribution today I’d like to reprint for all, in part because its writing quality is several notches above most you find in this particular screeching match:

“I remember that you wrote a piece recently on climate change,” a reader from the U.K. writes. “Thought I would send you this from yesterday’s London Times by Philip Stott, Professor Emeritus of Biogeography at the University of London. The whole climate change farce is one of my favourite examples of how emotion is too often louder than science, logic and all those things we should be putting some thought into.”

The Sky Is Far From Falling In On the Climate


by Philip Stott

This week the climate change caravanserai has moved on from Kyoto, via The Hague and Marrakesh, to Delhi, where portents of our imminent demise will be divined from the entrails and innards of computer models.

It is time to say “enough”. This latter-day millenarian nonsense has to stop. Our childish discovery that climate alters is making a mockery of science, of history, of the long and turbulent geology of the Earth, and of human adaptation to climate and weather from time immemorial, and long before.

The nadir was plumbed, as so often, on the Today programme when a well-meaning, tear-stained voice lamented the plight of the poor plants and anxious animals which could not be expected to cope with change. The comment was so wet that you could shoot snipe off it.

Good grief! Nature has been coping with change since some archaic Nigella was stirring the primal amino acid soup while earthquake, fire and flood raged all around. “I just love those rich blue-green stromatolites, don’t you?” (Sly, girlish glance.)

So, a few benighted birds, such as the lesser-striped sporan, might have to migrate to live in Sweden: how dreadful. And think of our feathered friends from the South: they might have to seek asylum in Britain under Blunkett’s brutal regime, confined to a webfooted wilderness in the Fens. Meanwhile, back in the hedgerow, spring was dangerously early this year and the autumn colours are not quite the same. “We’re all doomed!” as Private Fraser would intone, with twisted mouth and goggle eyes.

Has nobody read Gilbert White’s 18th-century journals? “Oct 18. 1770. Vast floods on the Sussex rivers: the meadows all under water. Nov 15. Vast rain at night. The ground so wet that no sowing goes forward.” And then: “Oct 26. 1781. Men sow their wheat in absolute dust. Oct 31. The water is so scanty in the streams that the millers cannot grind barley sufficient for mens (sic) hogs.”

All is change, past, present and future. And would our beleaguered farmers not have revelled in the years between 1100 and 1300, when May frosts were virtually unknown? Yet, by the winter of 1309-10, dogs were hunting hares on the hard frozen Thames and bread, even when wrapped in straw, froze solid in the larders.

But the 22-carat gold nonsense starts when our politicians declare that we can manage climate change to produce “a sustainable climate” — the world’s most outrageous oxymoron. I have this preposterous vision of a quixotic Michael Meacher, accompanied by a faithful Sancho Prescott, tilting at the Sun, capping exploding volcanoes, diverting conveyer-belt ocean currents with snorkels to the fore, and, like Superman, heaving meteors back into space.

The idea that, by fiddling about with a couple of politically chosen gases (carbon dioxide and methane), we can make climate do what we want is one of the most dangerous myths of our post-industrial age.

Perhaps I should play Lex Luther, Superman’s alter ego. If you really want to mess up the world’s climates, especially in the Tropics, then cover the Tibetan high plateau with black plastic sheeting and see what that does to the subtropical jet stream, the monsoons, and Lois Lane’s hairdo and make-up.

This bunkum over climate is warping policy. The “threat of global warming” is too often a mask for those who want no growth, no development and no globalisation. And the “renewable” energy alternatives either do not work or are not “renewable”. Even a man from The Times could not get the hydrogen car to go last week (it was raining), while you need lots of energy to produce the
hydrogen.

Many solar cells likewise take more energy to make than they give out, wind farms are despoiling much of the landscape, hydroelectic power disperses both fish and folk, tidal energy wrecks estuarine ecosystems, and we cannot have nuclear fission or fusion at any costs, can we? It is all carbon claptrap.

October 22, 2002

Some kind of hits you don’t want.


The unwelcome guests.

While checking my bStats to see who’s coming to the site from where – and a big thank you to both of you who’ve visited so far – I saw a hit from a Yahoo! search. I clicked on the link to see the search terms used to reach Clubbeaux: “washington dc sniper attacks betting pool.”

Turns out I’m the #3 site for such searches. Wonderful - #3 on the twisted citizen hit list.

Exxon’s Payphone …


Well, it appears the serial sniper did use the pay phone at the West Broad Street Exxon station in Richmond to make a call, but was long gone by the time police arrived to take down two illegal Mexicans in their white van using the same phone. You have to understand Richmond to fully appreciate this, so I've enlisted local folksinger Arlo Lee Guthrie to explain...

You can see every cop in town
At the Richmond Exxon phone.
You can see every cop in town
At the Richmond Exxon phone,
Just park alongside and make a call
Get a hundred cops in no time a-tall,
You can see every cop in town
At the Richmond Exxon phone.


Now it all started yesterday morning in Richmond, it was yesterday morning bright and early, when my friend and I tried to call up the rest of our housepainting crew for work that morning.

But our work crew doesn’t live near us, they live on the other side of West Broad Street, in an 8x12 room with Miguel the busboy and Orlando the gardener,

And livin’ in the 8x12 room like that they got a lot of folks spendin’ a lot of time on the phone, and spendin’ all that time (seein’ as how Vincente has eight kids back in Mexico) they decided that they was just gonna have to wait for the phone for a long time.

We tried callin’ ‘em up and found the line was busy and we decided that it’d be a friendly gesture for us to hang around and wait until the line was clear again.

So we went outside and loaded up our new white minivan with paint cans and paint brushes and implements of destruction and waited for the phone to clear.

Well, we kept tryin’ and the line was keepin’ on being busy and we had never heard of a line that busy before, so with tears in our eyes we drove down West Broad Street lookin’ for another place to make the call.

We didn’t find one till we came to the corner of Parham and West Broad Street, and off the side of an Exxon station was a public pay phone. And we decided that a phone call from here was as good as any other, and rather than drive all the way to Miguel’s 8x12 room we decided to call him from that there pay phone. So that's what we did.

Got back in the van, had some coffee and doughnuts that couldn’t be beat, had just started dozing off when we heard a tap on the window from Officer Friendly. He said “Kid, the serial sniper called us from this payphone a little while ago and we just wanted to know if you had any information about it.”

And I said “Yes sir, Officer Friendly, I cannot tell a lie. I called my work crew from this pay phone.” After speakin’ to Officer Friendly for about four-point five seconds he finally arrived at an executive decision and said that we had to get out of our new white minivan and that we had to go down and speak to him at the Police Officer station. So I slammed my face against the sidewalk and my friend did the same and we headed on toward the Police Officer Station.

Now friends, there was only one of two things that Officer Friendly could’ve done at the Police Officer station, and the first was that he could’ve give us a medal for bein’ so patient in tryin’ to call our crew all morning on the telephone, which wasn’t very likely and we didn’t expect it,

And the other thing was that he could’ve bawled us out and told us never to be seen drivin’ a white minivan as undocumented workers again, which is what we expected.

But when we got to the Police Officer station, there was a third possibility that we hadn’t even counted upon, and we was both immediately arrested, handcuffed, and I said “Officer Friendly, I don’t think I can paint houses today with these here handcuffs on.”

He said “Shut up, kid, and get in the back of the patrol car.” And that’s what we did, sat in the back of the patrol car and drove to the quote scene of the crime unquote.

I want to tell you about the town of Richmond, Virginia where this is happenin,’ they got four police jurisdictions, three surroundin’ counties and one wealthy West End, but when we got to the scene of the crime, there was

Five hundred police officers and fifty TV newspeople, bein’ Richmond’s biggest crime of the last fifty years and everybody wanted to get in the newspaper story about it.

And they was usin’ up all kinds of cop equipment that they had hangin’ around the Police Officer station. They was takin infrared-photos, fingerprints, bomb-smellin’ dogs, and they took twenty-seven thousand 8x10 color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explainin’ what each one was, to be used as evidence against us. Took pictures of the Exxon station, the pay phone, the new white minivan, the Citgo station across the street – and that’s not to mention the aerial photography.

October 21, 2002

The Richmond Sniper “Arrest.”


Beats suicide bombing.

About ten o’clock this morning a friend told me not to try driving near Parham and West Broad here in Richmond. “They’ve got it all blocked off,” he said. I asked why, he said he didn’t know.

Turns out police have arrested a couple guys they believe to be the sniper and his accomplice. The van was parked in front of a pay phone. Police haven’t yet said if it was the number given to authorities after the last shooting in Ashland on Saturday, presumably the 1:00 p.m. news feeding will be the word on that.

A couple things to note here:

The man taken from the van was said to be Middle Eastern in appearance. That would agree with Robert Young’s sighting in the Home Depot parking lot at the Falls Church shooting.

Also, police didn’t “catch” these guys. They arranged to turn themselves in. Police were staking out a number of areas and seemed to think, based on the information the sniper had provided, that he would turn up at one of them. He did.

Note that: When he wanted a safe perch from which to play out the rest of his sick scenario he threw himself in the arms of American justice. Maybe this isn’t shocking to anyone who hasn’t lived outside of America, but to those of us who’ve lived in countries which were not founded on classic liberal Western Judeo-Christian values it’s noteworthy.

I was a reporter in Istanbul for a number of years, and I can tell you notorious suspects frequently preferred suicide to capture by Turkish police. If this sniper had been operating in Istanbul he would not arrange a capture by police as a way of safely ending his spree, he’d eat a bullet first. Police, as a general rule in that part of the world, are not fed a steady diet of “sensitivity training” or “criminal’s rights.” They are trained to remove the incentives for committing crimes and the people who commit them. Maybe it’ s neither here nor there but Istanbul’s streets at night feel a whole lot safer than Richmond’s.

No doubt in my mind that eventual surrender was in the cards (sorry) for the sniper all along. Here’s someone who obviously wanted to a) kill people, b) terrorize a populace, and c) be caught. So instead of going to Jerusalem and strapping on a suicide bomb you can drive around the mid-Atlantic seaboard, killing enough people to swell your head and terrify the populace, and when you feel the cops closing in simply surrender.

You won’t be beaten, you won’t be tortured, you’ll get a lawyer – your pick of publicity-hungry lawyers willing to work for free, actually – and you’ll have your own personal cadre of social liberals who’ll make it their business to ensure the cops serve your tea just the way you like it, and you’ll get to spend years and years in a warm bed with three squares a day, making all the political statements you want and laughing about all the good times you had. Sure you might die sooner or later – you won’t if the liberals have their way, you get to live to ripe old age on the American taxpayer’s dime – but so what? Beats suicide bombing.

Ashland.



I make my living writing about customer service and business technology for various publications, print and online. My specialty is Customer Relationship Management, the art and science of how businesses relate to their customers. Easily the most popular piece I’ve ever written is one titled “Perfect CRM.” It concerns my favorite coffee shop – I’m something of a connoisseur – retreat, hangout and office-away-from-home in the greater Richmond area, Ashland Coffee & Tea.

I’ve spent many an hour and many a nickel at Ashland Coffee & Tea. A couple years ago I was in there almost every day, writing The Great American Novel. It’s the kind of place anybody’d feel comfortable in, and believe me they do get all kinds.

It used to be Ashland was one of the best-kept secrets around, although it's fairly accessible. Just drive up 95 about ten minutes from Richmond, pull off the "Ashland" exit, pass the Ponderosa steak house and there you are.

There was a nasty Wal-Mart fight a year or so ago which Ashland – predictably – lost. Yet the anti-Wal-Mart movement – which grew out of the coffee shop, haven of liberalism that it is – was so vocal and strident Michael Peled captured it in the documentary Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes To Town. The fight was written up in The New York Times on June 4, 2001.

The descriptions of Ashland presented in the Times piece hold up today:

As time passes, the pro- and anti-Wal-Mart factions harden their positions, but politely for the most part. The young mayor, up for re-election, tries to appease everyone but mainly worries whether people like him.

In Ashland, where many people still speak in soft Southern tones, politeness matters. “Passion and emotion give you the French Revolution,” says the mayor. “Passion and emotion don’t let you think through issues.” “Store Wars” captures how quixotic passion and emotion came to dominate life in Ashland for a time, when Wal-Mart decided to set up (a very big) shop there. The zoning battle is hardly the French Revolution. No one is beheaded, and many of the protest signs are prettily decorated by protesting children…

… When Wal-Mart put in its proposal to build a store, Ashland wasn’t exactly a virgin in the homogenization department. Just off Interstate 95, the town had already been invaded by fast-food restaurants and motel chains. But its downtown looks untouched by time, and it still has a Fourth of July parade at which children ride on ponies wearing American flags wrapped around their ankles. Its hometown song contains the lyric: “Ashland, Ashland, center of the universe.”


That’s a good snapshot of Ashland. Its former claim to fame was that it’s home to Randolph-Macon College, a small, sleepy college known for… not much, really, other than being an awfully decent place to spend your college years in an awfully decent little town.

Which Ashland still is. The reason people move to Ashland is that you can get to the rest of the world, but the rest of the world didn’t impose itself on you.

Until Wal-Mart. And until now.