Sunday, December 09, 2012
Metro columnist Dan Casey: Awards are reflection of judge's cynicism
- Precinct problems need to be fixed
- Commerce Park news is greeted with yawn, sigh
- Journalist recovering remarkably from crash
Read Dan's blog
It's that time of year, when peace, love and gladness ring in hearts all over the Blue Ridge.
Except for in mine. I am "sinister, brilliant and beautifully foul." That's how Roanoke reader Whitney Hollingsworth described me on Facebook one day in November, and I feel indebted.
It's also a perfect description for the Grinch. Which means it's time to give out the annual Dano Awards, which are more or less Oscars for glaring stupidity.
They are named after me for obvious reasons. Month after month, people compete with reckless abandon to outdo me, no easy feat. But there always are standouts. So here we go:
For the first time, we're handing out a national award, the Dano for Political Backfire Congratulations are in order for Virginia Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford County, who also represents northern Franklin and southern Bedford counties.
In a strange way, she probably did more to assure the re-election of President Barack Obama than any other state-level lawmaker in the country.
Recall, early this year Byron sponsored the infamous transvaginal ultrasound bill in the Virginia General Assembly. Though later watered down, as passed it mandated invasive, unnecessary procedures for women seeking abortions. And it caused a national uproar, which was followed by Rush Limbaugh's comments about sluts, and bizarre theories about rape voiced by male lawmakers in Missouri and Indiana.
The resulting furor pushed the women's vote to Obama's favor by unprecedented numbers -- he would have lost without them. And it all started right here in Western Virginia.
You could say the president owes Byron big. Perhaps he'll reward her with an ambassadorship. How about Saudi Arabia? I bet she'd feel at home there.
Another new category this year is the Dano for Best Fake Award, subcategory From Yourself. The hands-down winner? Chip Tarbutton, president of the Roanoke Tea Party.
He got an award for "environmental exceptionalism." It was bestowed by the Virginia Green Menace, a website that allegedly promotes "honest environmentalism," and targets "fraud in the Big Environmental Industry."
The site has posts about the evils of bicycle lanes, wind energy, and other stuff like how Bike Virginia is part of the United Nations' Agenda 21 plot to take over land-use planning in Roanoke County.
Guess who registered VirginiaGreenMenace.com? Tarbutton, of course. He says he did it as a favor for a friend whose server was down. Congrats, Chip -- with this Dano, you now have two fake awards in one year. That's quite a distinction.
The hands-down winner of the Dano for Lawyer of the Year, subcategory Frivolous Lawsuits, is Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Various high courts tossed out three big doozies by the attorney general in the first half of the year.
One was Cuccinelli's challenge to the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, which Cooch was sure he could get overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Oops. Another was the lawsuit against the EPA for regulating carbon dioxide, which a federal appeals court shot down.
Then there was the Virginia Supreme Court, which in March killed his fishing-expedition lawsuit against the University of Virginia over the work of former UVa climate scientist Michael Mann.
God only knows how much time and taxpayer money the attorney general wasted with those actions -- he said it was $300 per case, which sounds low. But who cares? They earned him big points with right-wing fanatics who will now support him in his race for Virginia governor.
The Dano for in the category of The Secret Got Out, Oh No! goes to the members of Roanoke City Council, who schemed in private session how to handle those radical subversives on the Mill Mountain Advisory Committee.
Their plan was thwarted, however, by Roanoke Mayor David Bowers He blew the whistle to the committee about the council's behind-closed-doors discussions. When committee chair Nancy Dye showed up at the next council meeting and pointedly noted this, the council meeting got very uncomfortable.
Afterward, one councilman muttered with outrage: "He [Bowers] broke the law!" -- which was utter nonsense. Bowers, who's won a Dano for the past three years, escapes the distinction this time around. I'm getting worried about him.
The Dano for Elected Official Who Most Discourages Citizen Involvement goes to Roanoke County Supervisor Ed Elswick, who booted Nell Boyle off a citizens environmental panel back in September.
Boyle had served on RC-CLEAR for more than three years. Elswick had every right not to reappoint her when her term expired in August. But he did it passive-aggressively.
She found out she's been tossed off RC-CLEAR by others, 10 days after the fact. He never bothered to phone Boyle and thank her for her service. "I didn't know I had to," Elswick lamely explained.
This year, we're giving out one anti-Dano for intelligence. Pat yourself on the back if you owned stock in Roanoke Gas before Nov. 30. That makes you an Investor of the Year. The subcategory, Sure Thing
Not only did the regulated utility impose a surcharge on customers last spring because it sold too little gas last winter, but this month it's paying a special $1-per-share dividend to its stockholders. Not bad for a stock that sells for about $18 per share.
They're rolling in dough because gas got so cheap the company didn't have to tie up large amounts of equity capital purchasing the stuff, according to its Nov. 1 announcement. Purely by coincidence, that news broke the same day Roanoke Gas raised its rates to customers by another $1.78 monthly.
The Dano for Dumbest Sponsor Name in a NASCAR race goes to the Tums Fast Relief 500. That one probably gave heartburn to all of Martinsville, its host city. Couldn't they have come up with a more serious-sounding sponsor, such as Preparation H, or Depends?
The Dano for Silliest Op-Ed in The Roanoke Times was an easy one. It goes to Jay Turner, Warner Dalhouse and Bittle Porterfield. They jointly wrote an essay, published Nov. 1, that lambasted a parody column I wrote about the Taubman Museum of Art. It was, they cracked, the "tackiest" and "most disrespectful" thing I've ever written.
Pshaw! Everybody for 100 miles knows the tackiest and most disrespectful thing I've ever written was the 80th birthday column on the Texas Tavern, way back in 2010. Former owner Jim Bullington will vouch for me on that.
The Dano for Piety by a Local Lawmaker goes to Roanoke County Supervisor Butch Church. With particular vehemence, Church led the charge this year to ensure that sectarian prayers (rather than nonsectarian prayer, or a moment of silence) could continue to be recited before supervisors meetings.
Church declared it "the single most important vote the board has taken, and will ever make, certainly in my 13 years and maybe in its history." Mere discussion of discontinuing sectarian prayer marked "the beginning of the end," he added.
Forget about schools, or the county's eroding tax base -- or even Agenda 21, eh?
Finally, I'm awarding myself the Dano in the category Worst Slur of the Year.
In a January column I compared Roanoke Tea Party members to "Energizer bunnies on LSD." I took a lot of heat for that. Reflecting back, I wish I'd never written it.
Energizer bunnies and LSD, I hope you'll accept my apology. I promise I'll never demean you that way again.
Dan Casey's column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.