Popular on posters on the fringes of Tea Party rallies, the image of President Barack Obama as a Heath Ledger look-alike “Joker” has gone from ominous to just plain weird.  It’s now hanging from the side of a strip joint in Richmond, Virginia, with the word “socialism” in big black letters underneath.

obamvelv1Samuel J.T. Moore III, owner of the club called Velvet, issued a statement to the Richmond Times-Dispatch defending his hanging of the banner as free speech and declaring, “This country is going to hell in a handbag, and the current administration is making things irreversibly worse.”

The Virginia NAACP, picketing outside the club, called it an abomination and a sign of disrespect.  Vandals hit the sign hours later and spray-painted graffiti that included the word “rapist.”  According to the Times-Dispatch, Moore was convicted last year of three misdemeanor charges related to having sex with a minor and another female at his apartment above the club, and filming it illegally, but was not charged with rape.

Meanwhile, some socialists in Virginia are complaining about being lumped in with Obama’s policies, according to The Virginian-Pilot.  “He’s not even a liberal,” declared state Socialist Party secretary  Brandon Collins, a Charlottesville musician.

Here’s some other stories from around the South that grabbed our attention.  And check out our News and Opinion Feeds for a lot more Southern happenings.

Picture 2When just ‘Go Warriors’ is not enough: Cheerleaders at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School in Catoosa County, Georgia, have been ordered to stop using Bible verses on the paper banners that football players break through at the beginnng of games.  Among the verses: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me in Christ Jesus” — Philippians 3:14.  School Superintendent Denia Reese said she appreciated the “expression of Christian values” but she also issued an official statement declaring that it is “a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution for signs with Bible verses to be displayed on the football field.”  The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that  many community folks have rallied behind the cheerleaders.  The fight is now on Facebook, where someone has set up a page with the message  “We Support the LFO Cheerleaders! LET THEM HAVE THEIR SIGNS BACK!”

But remember, it’s “buck naked,” not “butt naked”: Billboards advertising topless bars, strip joints and X-rated bookstores, like the signs seen along I-75 in Georgia, will continue in South Carolina, too.  According to the Greenville News, Attorney General Henry McMaster has decided it would be fruitless to appeal a federal court decision overturning a state law that banned the signs.

When folks tell you to keep your shirt on: Angela Jonas probably should have listened.  She was arrested in York, South Carolina, for walking down the road topless.  Neighbors told police it was not the first time.  And Jonas herself admitted she likes to mow her grass topless.

banbooksWhen you literally can’t judge a book by its cover: The Gadsden Public Library in Alabama marked the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week by setting up a table of books with the covers wrapped in brown paper.  Each of the 40 books, available for checkout, has been challenged or banned at some point, somewhere, according to library director Amanda Jackson.

Deer lord: A report by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. indicates a rise across the South in collisions between cars and deer.  Virginia reported an 18 percent increase over the past five years, with a 1 in 137 chance of someone hitting a deer the next 12 months.  Arkansas reported a whopping 35 percent increase in car-deer collisions.  The study estimated that 18,974 deer had met bumper in Arkansas between July 1, 2007, and June 30, 2009.  But West Virginia remains atop the heap.  The study estimates there’s a 1 in 39 chance of hitting a deer there the next 12 months,

Go hit a deer: Four drivers in Miami showed up last week to compete for a spot on the Travel Channel’s new reality show America’s Worst Driver.  “Miami has bad drivers, and I’m one of them,” declared contestant Ydania Diaz, 30.  Contestants picked for the show get a chance to win a new car.  Producers are also looking for worst drivers in Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, Dallas, San Francisco, Chicago and Boston.

361211What whale? Virginia officials are trying to determine who is responsible for removing a dead humpback whale that floated up to a marsh near Gloucester Point.  “Right now, it is unclear whether the water the whale is in belongs to the property owner, the county or the state,” Linda M. Candler, marketing director at the Virginia Aquarium, told The Virginian-Pilot.

Oh, like buying them by the fistful is OK: The Tennessee attorney general’s office has warned stores to stop selling single cigarettes — known as “loosies.”  Health officials are concerned that the availability of individual cigarettes may attract young people as an easy way to begin smoking, the Commercial Appeal reported … And, then … The Memphis city council proposed a city ordinance banning the sale of single beers.  Sponsors say the ordinance would curb panhandling and street violence … Meanwhile, in Knoxville, the county commission voted to allow guns in county parks.

Where there’s smoke: Bingo parlors on opposite ends of Richland County, South Carolina, are suing each other, each claiming the other is ignoring a county law that prohibits smoking.  Gold Bingo hired a private detective, who took cellphone pictures of people smoking next door to Mr. Bingo.  Mr. Bingo has accused Gold Bingo of allowing patrons to smoke “for the purpose of increasing their market share and harming … competitors.”

Dew Droplets: A man went on trial in Caldwell County, North Carolina, on charges of circumcising his sons with a utility knife … A Clay County, Alabama, preacher was shot dead after chopping off a deputy’s hand with an ax … Former Portland, Tennessee, math teacher Sandy Binkley was convicted of “statutory rape by an authority figure” … After a series of recent setbacks, competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi returned to glory at the at the sixth annual Krystal Square Off in Chattanooga, downing 70 burgers … Putnam County officials are hoping someone will preserve the Butler-Baker School,  where author Alice Walker became valedictorian in 1961 … University of Central Arkansas President Allen Meadors won $21 on a $10 ticket he bought on the first day of the state’s new lottery to support education.

Ron Taylor

Ron Taylor

Ron Taylor was born and raised in Georgia and worked more than 40 years at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a reporter and editor and as an online producer for ajc.com and AccessAtlanta. He served for a time as the newspaper's regional editor, overseeing coverage of the South. He is co-author, with Dr. Leonard Ray Teel, of Into the Newsroom:  An Introduction to Journalism and has conducted workshops in the Middle East on feature writing.