Bob Shell: Gun Control

Angry woman carrying large pistol with black leather boots
Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2022

Text by Bob Shell,  Copyright 2022


Gun Control: My Personal Experience


Now that everyone is talking about guns and gun control, I figured ‘What the hell, I’ll throw out my thoughts and see what happens.’
I’ve lost my gun rights once, got them back, then lost them again. I lost them the first time in 1969 when I was convicted of possession of marijuana, a felony at that time carrying a possible thirty year sentence. I got ‘lucky’ and only got three years, suspended. I later petitioned the Governor of Virginia and had all of my rights restored.

Segue to 2007, when I was convicted of the charges that put me where I am now, when I lost my gun rights all over again.  My first question in 1969 and again now is this, how can a state take away a constitutionally guaranteed right? I did not believe the State of Virginia had that right then, and I continue to believe that today. States simply have no right to infringe on any federal constitutional right. Why the US Supreme Court has never categorically stated that is a mystery to me.

That being said, I have owned only three guns in my life, a single-shot bolt-action .22 Remington rifle, a single-shot breach loaded .410 shotgun (I don’t remember the maker), and a semiautomatic 9 mm Beretta pistol. The rifle was a gift from my father at around age 16. We used to go squirrel hunting together, but mostly we did target shooting. He was a deadeye shot with no scope, and could knock a squirrel I could barely see out of a tree, something he said he learned in the army.

My grandfather gave me the shotgun, that he used to use for dove hunting, until he decided a Methodist minister shouldn’t hunt. All I ever shot with it were tossed tin cans, which I hit most of the time.  I only fired the pistol, another gift from my father, a few times at targets. I did pretty well with it, but short barreled pistols tend to not be very accurate.

The first guns I’m aware of that could be fired relatively quickly without reloading were the ‘pepperbox’ pistols, that had multiple barrels on a manually rotated turret. I am not a firearm historian, so bear with me if my history is pretty general. The Bob Shell who writes the gun books you see on Amazon, etc., is someone else.  I believe the first real fully automatic rifle was the Gatling Gun, which had multiple rotating barrels automatically reloaded from a magazine. Gatlings were used in the American ‘Civil War,’ but were very big and heavy and mounted on a carriage that could not be repositioned quickly.  Modern Gatling Guns are like the one you see Jesse Ventura using in the movie ‘Predator’. Having multiple barrels keeps them from overheating and damaging themselves. Do I believe anyone with the money should be able to buy a modern Gatling? No, I do not.

I’m more conflicted about modern ‘assault rifles,’ which are descended from the automatic military rifles for which Adolf Hitler coined the term ‘Sturmgewehr’ — ‘storm weapon.’  The first other iteration was the Russian AK-47, named for Antonin Kalashnikov, its designer. Americans countered with the AR-15, used by American troops in Vietnam.
I believe there are rational reasons for keeping some military weapons out of the hands of those who might misuse them.

But, wait a minute. Isn’t the purpose of the Second Amendment to arm the populace and prevent an overreaching government from holding power over us? Yes, it is, and I’m conflicted.

Look at Ukraine, where poorly armed civilians have gone up against Russian soldiers equipped with modern weapons of war to defend their freedom. What if Russia, or some other autocracy tried to overrun and subdue the USA, or our own government ran amok? If the citizenry had only guns like I had, they’d stand no chance.

So what is the solution to gun violence, or is there one? Gun massacres have occurred in countries with strict gun control. Make guns illegal, and only the criminals will have them.  I offer no solution to the problem, just hope to stimulate some thought about a difficult, polarizing problem to which neither side seems to have any answers.

 About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell, click here:


Studio News: Harvey Finkle – Under One Sky

poor black immigrant using old mattress as a trampolene
Photo: Harvey Finkle, Copyright 2022
Dear Friends:
Under One Sky: Documenting Immigrant Communities in Philadelphia The Photography of Harvey Finkle is an exhibition being planned for October of this year. We are raising much needed funds to assist with the matting, framing and mounting of 43 photographs out of the 83 that will be in the show and any amount donated will help us get closer to achieving our goal of being able to show these amazing photographs. Below please find a little more about Harvey’s work and this exhibition.
For five decades Harvey Finkle has documented immigrant communities, as well as social and political activism in Philadelphia and other US cities. He photographed and documented the Sanctuary Movement in the early 1980s and in 2003 his exhibition Philadelphia Mosaic: New Immigrants in America was held at the Free Library of Philadelphia.
 Under One Sky: Reflecting Immigrant Communities Through Photography 1982-2018 will present thirty-six years of Harvey Finkle’s photographs documenting the many immigrant communities that call Philadelphia home and is the biggest retrospective of his immigrant photographs to date. 
The proposed exhibition also comes at an important time when immigrant communities in the USA are experiencing backlash, and in the case of Asian and Pacific Islandercommunities, a rise in attacks and violence in the form of anti-Asian hate. It is also an important exhibition as Harvey is no longer able to photograph due to the onset of rapid macular degeneration, which forced him to give up the camera, despite this challenge, Harvey continues to work by organizing, distributing, printing, editing and showing his work while continuing to make photos with a digital printer. 
The exhibition will present over 80 photographs showcasing 17 immigrant communities living in North, South and West Philadelphia. The groups represented in the exhibition include Indonesians, Vietnamese, Hmong, Cambodian, Laotian, Indian, People from Burma, Bhutanese (Nepal), Mexican, Peruvian, Guatemalan, Liberians, Afghans, Lebanese, Ethiopians, people from Sierra Leone and Jamaicans. 

Below please find a link to our indieGoGo fundraiser. Your generous contribution no matter how small will assist us in readying the work for exhibition. Thank you in advance for your consideration. 
Sincerely yours,
David Acosta & Harvey Finkle.

A.H. Scott: True Believers and Tallywhackers (The Elephant’s Underbelly)

still life of Uncle Sam top hat with executives briefcases
Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2022

True Believers and Tallywhackers (The Elephant’s Underbelly)


A.H. Scott


“Lord, lift us up where we belong….”

Oh no, it’s not a humming of a romantic theme from the film “An Officer and A Gentleman”, but, an undertone score of those who benefit from the perks of marrying well. 

One might think that if someone mired in the off-the-wall conspiracy swamp of election lie lunacy tried to take one toe onto the grounds of the White House, that person would be turned around and be noted as persona non grata. 

Yet, for a lady who married well, she is given carte blanche on not just entering the White House grounds; but, escorted into the office of oval. She comes with lists of ‘wants’, from suggestions for employees throughout an administration to propelling legal theories into overturning a failed re-election bid. 

Some in the administration may humor this woman, while others may be humbled by which elite plateau she exists upon.

Oh yes, this lovely lady is a light in the darkness to show the way to victory. In fact, her maiden name was Lamp. But, that was before she wed a man in black. A black robe that is. Her name is Virginia and her beloved’s name is Clarence. 

Virginia ‘Ginni’ Thomas is a conservative activist and her husband is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In the land of D.C. power is a key. The accelerant of power is a key to unlocking doors that the commoners shall never hold. 

A question: Who is more powerful, a President who serves four to eight years in office; or, a Supreme Court Justice who has a lifetime appointment?

Ding! Ding! Ding! I hear a symphony!

Answer: Justice is Supreme.

Some may see the attack of January 6th as an isolated event. But, the fact is that it actually was just a mid-way point in an ongoing scheme of fallacy involving a tiny man with a bruised ego of not wanting to admit his loss in an election. It didn’t begin one day in January 2021, but ten months prior. 

Screeches from Donald Trump’s mouth on the campaign trail starting in April 2020 about a possibility of him not being elected as being due to fraudulence and outright theft in that upcoming election of that November were just the greasing of the wheels in getting his supporters to believe his lies were truth and the truth were lies. 

With the panoply of titled configurations in the conservative bloodstream known as ‘Stop the Steal’, ‘The Madison Sweep’ and all other kind of calliope chaos under the circus tent to keep Donald J. Trump in office by any means necessary, the planning and operation of Trump’s Big Lie came vividly to life.  

Sandwiched between two pardoned felons, Steve Bannon and Mike Flynn is pillow-pusher Mike Lindell. No, that’s not some sort of double-entendre. Mr. Lindell really pushes pillows for a living as CEO of a pillow manufacturing empire. Alongside as crisp pickle in this buffet of audacity was another pardoned felon, Roger Stone. 

As to Mr. Stone, it seems Roger always has a way of inserting himself in the middle of one thing or another. But, I shall get back to him a little bit later in this article. 

 With that being said, there is another person in the linkage of this chain of conservatives. His name is Mark Meadows, former White House Chief of Staff to Donald J. Trump and former Republican member of Congress from North Carolina’s 11th district. Both of these titles of Mr. Meadows have placed him in quite an interesting position of being point-man in this see-sawing situation.

Ginni Thomas is not some over-eager, collegiate, campaign volunteer stuffing envelopes, door-knocking, lawn sign posting, and silk-screening t-shirts for the cause. Far from that lowly place, she is at the pinnacle of power; where all that is needed is the right name and right spouse to be granted anything that is sought after. 

Days after the election of 2020 to before the inauguration in 2021, a back and forth of text messages[1] numbering 29 was sent from Mrs. Thomas to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, proving one thing was clear; Ginni is a true believer in the labyrinth of ideological extremity. She isn’t even on the same page of working the type of self-aggrandizing grift that Donald Trump is. From jowl of Powell to the esoteric of  Eastman, Virginia Lamp Thomas is earnestly all in for countering what she calls President Joseph R. Biden’s election win as ‘the end of liberty’[2]. 

Ginni Thomas being a true believer in whatever she believes in wouldn’t mean much to me or any other citizen of the United States of America, if she had remained Virginia Lamp. Yet, she is who she is and her husband just coincidentally happens to be one of nine persons who rule supreme. 

The first black Supreme Court Justice was Thurgood Marshall, a legal lion who earned his roar from winning the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, which desegregated public schools.  As civil rights legend Marshall had announced his retirement, many wondered who would possibly be a replacement upon the bench. 

“It was in this spirit in 1981 that I joined the Administration as an Assistant Secretary in the Department of Education. I had, initially, declined taking the position of Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights simply because my career was not in civil rights and I had no intention of moving into this area. In fact, I was insulted by the initial contact about the position as well as my current position.”– Clarence Thomas, Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 1987[3]

Back when Clarence Thomas was nominated and introduced as a nominee for his current position to the American public by President George H.W. Bush on a sunny July day in 1991, little did the majority of us know of the variables which would surface during his confirmation hearing later in that year. 

On September 10th, 1991 when the Senate Judiciary Committee (whose chairman was Senator Joseph R. Biden of Delaware) began an average, advise and consent confirmation hearing of reviewing the then Judge Thomas’ rulings over the years, it seemed as plain as vanilla. 

Nothing to see here, nothing to cause a rumble or grumble. It was just your mellow tedium of questions and responses over precedents, legal codes, law articles, and judicial philosophy. 

By September 27th, 1991, the hearings had come to a successful end, as Thomas was voted out of committee for a full floor vote to a somewhat speedy confirmation for him to become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Preparing for the final Senate vote on Thomas’ nomination after debating on October 6th, 1991, suddenly everything was set off course for the heralding of a new Supreme Court Justice. 

A leaked FBI interview with a former underling of Clarence Thomas when he chaired the EEOC named Anita Hill had been reported by NPR’s Nina Totenberg on October 6th. For the next five days until October 11th, the heat was on the Judiciary Committee to allow the University of Oklahoma Law Professor to testify on the character and fitness of a man who was to be exalted into a job with lifetime tenure. 

Quite ironic it became when things turned unpleasant for Clarence Thomas, for although Anita Hill sat at the table giving her testimony about him; there was a shadow which hovered over the hearing room. 

Daniel Arthur Mead played a part in how history of that moment in time now hangs in perpetuity for any retelling of the events of those days back in 1991. 

Mr. Mead was mentioned only by his unforgettable stage name – Long Dong Silver. Anita Hill’s mentioning of this porn actor whose claim to fame was his above average asset was just part of what she had to deal with in being put-upon by her supervisor at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Clarence Thomas. 

Oddly enough of what the EEOC is meant to prevent is not lost on anyone who still shake our heads in disbelief that Thomas wasn’t a protector of women, but more in the mode of a predatory archetype.  

Anita Hill’s recollections of Thomas’ pornographic extravaganza of long dongs and amply bosomed women, down to just his creepy come-ons to her, hit a nerve for many women who were in her same position. Yet, even though Clarence Thomas was confirmed by members of the United States Senate, it was her courage and exposure of what kind of character that man actually is which has remained a lasting hallmark of Anita Hill’s heroism to this day. 

The lives of Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas intersected in 1981 to 1983, when she was an attorney-adviser to him at the United States Department of Education Office Of Civil Rights and she served as his assistant when he became chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1982. 

After exiting her job at the EEOC in 1983, Anita Hill went on to becoming an assistant law professor at Oral Roberts University until 1986 when she became a member of the faculty at the University of Oklahoma’s College of Law. 

Professor Hill was dignified and determined to move on from the events she encountered with Clarence Thomas back in the 1980’s, yet a person who had no first-hand knowledge of her life or even his back in 1981 to 1983 decided to ring her up from out of the blue in October 2010. It was good ‘ol Ginni Thomas, who had married Clarence in 1987, leaving Hill a voicemail in requesting her to apologize for the testimony given back in 1991 at the confirmation hearings of her husband. What is funny about that telephone voice-mail message[4] that was left for Anita Hill is that it is based off of what Clarence told his wife about whatever occurred back when he was alone with Anita Hill. 

Well, I guess that proves Ginni is a true believer in all sorts of spheres; believing anything told to her from a man she wasn’t even with back in 1981 to 1983, as if he were Moses bringing down the tablets from off the mountain. 

You would figure that some cases that are brought before the Supreme Court would be difficult for Judge Clarence Thomas to even touch with a ten foot pole. But, oh no – he goes chin forward without blinking or wondering whether it might make him look bad in the public eye. Public be damned! Decorum be damned!

One example of this is the case of Vance versus Ball State University. 

Muncie, Indiana’s Ball State University was sued by Maetta Vance, a server who worked for Ball State University Dining under the catering supervisor, Saundra Davis. Vance contended that Davis made the workplace odious due to physical actions and racial harassment against her. 

In a 5-4 ruling of the Supreme Court on June 24th, 2013 of a case involving workplace harassment which ruled in favor of the defendant, Ball State University[5]; it proved once more that the little guy or in this case, little gal seems to always be up against it. 

And, guess who was one among the five who voted in the majority against the plaintiff, a woman suing her employer for workplace harassment by a supervisor. Yep, you guessed it – Thom Ass. Oops, I think I worded that wrong. Or, did I? (lol) 

“I join the opinion because it provides the narrowest and most workable rule for when an employer may be held vicariously liable for an employee’s harassment. “ – Clarence Thomas, re: Vance v. Ball State University 

Odd isn’t it, to see a concurrent opinion of the Vance v. Ball State University decision from the Supreme Court about a rule for employee harassment is written by a man who has his own questionable past with a person when he chairing the EEOC.

Is Clarence just a man of such high morality and unimpeachable virtue that has been misunderstood by so many of us for so many years? Or, is this just a dirty talkin’, ass-grabbin’[6], long-dong envyin’, big boob admirin’ man?  If you want to think, hmm, to each his own, then on the other side of that it means keep them hands to your damn self, grubby grabber. 

Yet, first impressions have a way of being set in stone. In the case of associate Justice Thomas, it might be the marble of the Supreme Court where he is ensconced within. 

As with the aforementioned dangle of hung Silver in the land of public virtue and private vices, there’s more to be seen of the elephant’s underbelly. 

What’s in a name, some might wonder. 

In the Republican cage-match otherwise known as “Who Can Be the Most Vile?”, there is one person who is in the running for the title. His name is Representative Madison Cawthorn. And, he is shining star and a thorn all rolled up into one.

“XX chromosomes, no tallywhacker” – Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-North Carolina[7]

And, to think the man who followed in the tracks of Mark Meadows in representing the people of the 11th District of North Carolina is the same man who has such a way with words. I guess you could say Representative Madison Cawthorn is on a roll with letting it all hang out.

Speaking of which, Cawthorn’s big mouth[8] has a way of getting his hand spanked by House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and defended in a nice, long stroke by a man who knows of dirty deeds first-hand. 

Referencing of ‘first-hand’ and ‘tallywhackers’ – wow, the elephant’s underbelly definitely continues to be stroked mighty well and mighty hard. Ha! Ha!!

The GOP and cocaine orgies? Oh, Madison, make them clutch their pearls in hearing their dirty little secrets being revealed by you. McCarthy dismisses you, not because what you say. But, the fact that you said what you said for public consumption. Now, just the opposite you get defended by Roger Stone. 

“And I can see why Washington elites would now be scrambling to try to deny it because maybe the voters back home won’t like what they’re hearing.”- Roger Stone[9]

Oh yes, that same Roger Stone, who’s dirty tricks and dirty deeds go back many a year. Having described himself as ‘try-sexual'[10], raunchy Roger knows of what he speaks when he stands up in defense of Rep. Madison Cawthorn. Using pseudonyms of “Swash Buckler” and “Nikki”, the adventurous Stones have been a couple of extraordinarily friendly and social beings in havens far from the pristine crowd. 

Snark-Boy Rep. Cawthorn isn’t alone on the crazy train of blabbering when he talks about coke orgies, as Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene tosses and stirs in some unappetizing words into the political pot also. 

With fervor in her voice, trying to earn some political brownie points from the whacked-out right wing, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene spouts off in defense of some of the January 6th capitol rioters. Calling the jail where they are being detained a ‘gulag’, she attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over ‘gazpacho police’[11]. No, you are not reading the wrong word. This is the word that came out her mouth. She said it and didn’t try to correct herself or even possibly stop the recording and then re-record what she wanted to say. 

With both of these blockheads, one thing is for sure; if you say something with vigor and a sense of righteousness, then by God, it has to be held upward on the side of the angels. Ya’ both are lying like vipers in the pit; but, hey you guys keep on saying stuff over and over again. And, maybe just maybe you’ll believe your own hype one day. For now, ya’ll just keep thrashing your tallywhacker[12] and swimming in your soup. 

Right among the conspiracy cacklers and disuniting schemers is Ginni Thomas, who has an ace up her sleeve to be on the side of what she considers righteous. As the wife of a Supreme Court Justice, she needn’t have to tell her husband of her wishes and wants, for each knows the other’s heart. 

With the loose ends of court cases involving that which happened before, during and after the election of 2020 making their way up through the courts of appeals and making the final landing before the Supreme Court of the United States of America, anyone who has a spouse that has a vested interest in the ruling of a case should step aside and let the other judges do the judging.

In a time where the American system of democracy has never been before, as an overturning of an election and systematic coup is too close to being fulfilled; there must be a rejoinder. And, even the rarified bubble in which the members of the Supreme Court exist must be pierced and a code of ethics needs be implemented. 

All other levels of the judiciary have a list of standards for conduct for the men and women who sit upon the bench. Yet, the Supremes get to just make up their own rules as they see fit. 

Being blunt, it is as if some of the justices who sit on that bench exemplify the RDA principle of ‘rules don’t apply’; just for the sake of because they can. They sit up there in their robes of black and act like their decisions that affect each and every person in this country are handed down from a Celestial plain. Yet, they are above it, for they need never live under the same standards, laws, regulations or coda that the rest of us have to. 

But, in the end, when they are addressed by any of us common folk, they are bestowed a title before their surnames are mentioned – Justice. 

Thus, Justice Clarence Thomas goes on grinning with a (cow) chip on his shoulder and gravitas because of his point of position.  

Alas, as Thomas prepares to slide back onto the bench at the Supreme Court, he will have a new colleague before the new session begins. She is associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first black women on the bench of nine.

During her Senate confirmation hearing, the then Judge Brown Jackson was asked about recusal in an upcoming case that would be before the Supreme Court, involving affirmative action admissions policy at Harvard from where she is a graduate of. 

Without hesitation or playing a game of weasel-words in answering this question from Texas’ tacky n’ trollin’ Senator Ted Cruz, this forthright woman said she would recuse[13] herself. 

Now, the balls of his wife’s conspiracies, contradictions, and cravenness are in Clarence’s court, to show how stand-up or stand-above (the rest of us) he actually is. 

I guess you could say her jewels of favor are in his hands. Or, maybe it’s his jewels of favor that are in her hands? Yeah, that’s the ticket. It’s all about friendship. 

“My wife Virginia, my best friend in the world” – The Honorable Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice of The United States Supreme Court[14]

Lucky by confirmation’s fateful thumbs up, a man of dubious honesty is granted an imprimatur of being honorable. 

Will Justice Thomas set himself on a perch of propriety and judiciously stand on the side of recusal or, will he flip us the bird in the same fashion his late colleague, associate Justice Antonin Scalia did back in 2004, when giving a mocking retort during a conflict of interest dust-up over a case involving his duck-hunting[15] buddy and then vice-President Dick Cheney’s role in the George W. Bush administration’s Energy Task Force policy. Never a shrinking violet, Scalia rubbed salt into the wound of those calling for his recusal of the case with a pithy quip of the following pair of words – “Quack, quack”.

A roadrunner may catch the worm, but an appearance of conflicted interest can’t make a person who thinks any sort of rules don’t apply to himself squirm. 

If past is prologue, good ‘ol Clarence will take the road of the long dong or the dirty bird, and so-called equal justice shall be bastardized and splat downward from up where he and his ‘best friend’ Ginni soar. 

Thinking about this cuckooing (or, coup-coup-ing) couple brings an apt lyric from the magnificent Cole Porter to my mischievous mind: 

“If you’re ever in a jam, here I am

If you’re ever in a mess, S-O-S

If you ever feel so happy, you land in jail, I’m your bail.

It’s friendship, friendship, just a perfect blendship.

When other friendships have been forgot,

Ours will still be hot.” – “Friendship”, words and music by Cole Porter, 1939[16]

Beep, beep!

“When the fringe becomes normal and normal becomes the fringe; it is sanity to all that it shall hinge.” – A.H. Scott



“True Believers and Tallywhackers (The Elephant’s Underbelly)” – The Footnotes:

1) –“Ginni Thomas Reportedly Pressed Trump’s Chief of Staff on Overturning the Election” – NPR

2) –“The Real Ginni Thomas Revelation” – Vox

3) –“Why Black Americans Should Look At Conservative Policies” – The Heritage Foundation

4) –“Justice Thomas’ Wife Asks Anita Hill To Apologize” – NPR

5) –“Score One More for the Corporations” – US News

6) –“Do You Believe Her Now?” – New York Magazine

7) –’Science Isn’t Burger King,’ Rep. Cawthorn Says In House Floor Speech” – WNCN-TV, CBS affiliate, North Carolina 

8) –“Party That Excused Rioters Smearing Human Sh*t On the Walls Of The Capitol Draws The Line At Cocaine And Orgy Allegations” – Vanity Fair

9) –“Roger Stone Defends Madison Cawthorn, Claims Orgies and Drug Abuse Not Uncommon in DC

10) –“Inside Roger Stone’s Swinging Marriage” – Daily Mail

11) –“Marjorie Taylor Greene Confuses Soup with Hitler’s Secret Police in Viral Rant” – CNN

12) –“‘No tallywhacker,’ North Carolina Rep. Cawthorn Says In House Floor Speech On Definition Of Woman” – WBTW

13) –“Supreme Court Nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson ’92 Pledges to Recuse Herself From Harvard Affirmative Action Case” – Harvard Crimson

14) –“Character – A Speech Delivered by Justice Clarence Thomas, February 1, 1998” – The Heritage Foundation

15) –“Scalia Rejects Pleas For Recusal In Cheney Case” – The Washington Post

16) –“Du Barry Was A Lady” – Internet Broadway Database

About The Author: A.H. Scott is a poet based in New York City and frequent contributor to Tony Ward Studio. To read additional articles by Ms. Scott, go here:

A.H. Scott’s book: Bad Guys Finish Fast & Good Guys Finish Last is available on Amazon!


Bob Shell: Virginia Enters the Dark Ages

Old Antique shop and old pick up truck radford virginia
Antiques. Radford, Virginia. Photo: Anthony Colagreco, Copyright 2022

Last November, Virginia elected a new conservative Republican administration. The new Attorney General is Jason Miyares.

Last year, the AG at that time, Mark Herring, set up a new unit in the AG’s office called the Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU), because the administration finally realized that Virginia had far too many innocent people in prison.

The new unit went to work immediately on questionable convictions.
According to a study by the Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper, about 15 – 18% of Virginia convictions are false. The Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) admits to 5%. With approximately 30,000 people in Virginia prisons, that’s from 1,500 to 5,400 innocent people locked up in Virginia prisons, their lives destroyed.

The creation of the CIU gave us falsely convicted people a hope that the state wanted to redress its wrongs and set us free. I spent considerable time and money getting copies made of important documents in my case, and submitted it all to the CIU last year.

One of Miyares first acts upon taking office was to fire the whole staff of the CIU! This left cases in progress there hanging.  I wrote a letter complaining about this that was published on March 6 in The Roanoke Times newspaper. A communications officer from the AG’s office contacted the paper to demand a correction and say that the new AG had, in fact, expanded the CIU, renaming it the Investigations, Cold Cases, and Actual Innocence Project with all new staff under the direction of Theo Stamos, a prosecutor from Arlington, VA. Isn’t putting a prosecutor in charge of this new unit, which will now handle cold cases and investigations, like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse?

Why didn’t The Roanoke Times already know about this? Wouldn’t the AG normally send out a press release about such important news?
I recently got a letter from the Coalition for Justice in Blacksburg, Virginia. The situation is worse than I could have thought.
The Conviction Integrity Unit filed a petition for a Writ of Actual Innocence last year with the Virginia Court of Appeals for Terrance Richardson, a man serving a life sentence for the murder of a policeman, championed byAG Mark Herring.

After taking office new AG Miyares notified the court that the state had changed its position and asked the court to dismiss Richardson’s petition! Shouldn’t judging the merits of the 57 page petition prepared by the CIU and endorsed by the former AG be up to the court to decide?

Seth Shelley, one of the fired CIU attorneys, said, “My unit alone had 20 cases that were pending before the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court of Virginia. All of us are now gone.”

What will happen to those cases? Will Miyares ask the courts to dismiss them all, or just leave these people hanging with no attorneys anymore?
Should the AG, whose staff’s job is to oppose these cases, be able to fire the lawyers representing the petitioners?

Another fired attorney, Emilee Hasbrouck said, over the past year the CIU has helped two people get absolute pardons, as well as filing Richardson’s petition. She said these cases are thousands of pages long, with evidence spanning decades. She emphasized just how difficult it would be for new people to take over these cases.

Theo Stamos, appointed to take over the new unit, is a prosecutor from Arlington, and a woman. She has been criticized for her stances on bail and voting rights restoration. Miyares appointed her, so they must share common views. No one knows what she will do with cases already being worked on by the fired CIU lawyers. There have been no comments from Ms Stamos at all, and no further word from the AG’s office.

Somebody needs to do something about this! I knew we’d gotten a dictatorial didact in the AG’s office, but this is worse than we could have possibly imagined. The fired lawyers should sue to get their jobs back and continue to represent those people. Maybe they will lose some of those cases in court, but that is how the system is supposed to work. Our adversarial system of justice fails when attorneys on both sides of cases represent the same interests.

It is long past time that those of us who have been falsely convicted are given the opportunity to go before the high courts and be set free.


 About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell, click here:

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Here’s the link:  

A.H. Scott: Everlast!

Illustration of Putin as a devil by the artist Thomcat23
Putin. Artwork by Thomcat23, Copyright 2022



A.H. Scott, Copyright 2022

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” – Benjamin Franklin

Putin’s weaponry, Putin’s conscripted troops, Putin’s strategy. He thought it would be a quick roll over the border into Ukraine and victory within two or three days. Failure of his plan was that he never figured the people of Ukraine would fight back. 

Yeah, Mr. Putin! The battle for you is what has become unlikely. Thinking that your tanks and those you have sent into Ukraine would be a cake-walk, only proves you have a chronic misalignment of seeing the Ukrainian people as being nothing more than crumbs to be steamrolled. 

“Do not praise yourself when going of to battle going into battle; praise yourself coming out of battle.” – Russian Proverb

You are not the second coming of Peter the Great. Oh no, you are just Vlad the Vicious. Without a doubt, Mr. Putin, you are a purveyor of pain with those delusions of grandiosity dancing in your head. 

Unlikely it is that when the Russian President puffs up his chest in thinking that when he launched an invasion into Ukraine that there would never be any level of pushback against his forces. But, yet the pushback is here. Oh, Vladimir, you are a man who is choking on his own hype. Gluttony has made you punch-drunk. Of course, you still wield power in many ways. But, you might have bitten off more than you can chew.

“A hungry wolf is stronger than a satisfied dog” – Ukrainian Proverb 

In this moment in time, that dog is the bear and the bear is named Putin. The Russian military on paper and in the field may seem to have all the weapons to wage a war. Yet, there is one weapon that Putin’s troops have ignored – an intestinal will. It is that hunger that the Ukrainian people have; to not be occupied by an invading force.

“Truth is one, but error proliferates. Man tracks it down and cuts it up into little pieces hoping to turn it into grains of truth. But the ultimate atom will always essentially be an error, a miscalculation.” – Rene Daumal

Russian President Vladimir Putin has come up against an opponent he never figured on; his own miscalculation of military might. You can give anyone a gun in hand and train them on how to shoot. Yet, if those who are conscripted in the Russian army don’t have their hearts and souls into it, they are just going on the fumes of having marching orders from a military leader. 

“When you attack us, you will see our faces. Not our backs, but our faces” – Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine President

Unlikely reality has smacked Putin in the throat, as Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has led his people with courage and conviction, and a transparent touch of the common man. When he is seen on global media, there is no doubt that he speaks with clarity and clear communication of what is truly going on in this incursion from Russia. Unlike Putin, he is not doling out misinformation with every breath that he takes before the cameras. 

“Beware, so long as you live, of judging men by their outward appearance.” – Jean de La Fontaine

To anyone who is reading this, I pose a scenario that you can think about:

As you sit in your chair wherever you are, think about the border of your country, your state, your city, your village, your street. Now, think about an entity on the other side of that border, deciding to invade your space, your existence, your home and cast you out into the darkness of an apocalyptic abyss; leaving your world upturned beneath the crush of tanks and howl of air sirens going off. 

What if it were you, what would you do? 

Would you freeze? Would you run? 

Would you pray? Would you fight?

Sitting here in New York, the thought of an invasion from a neighboring state, or even a rogue force southward from Canada has never even entered my mind. 

Oh no, it’s not here on this land where I live, so it doesn’t matter. It’s over there, somewhere far, far away in Europe. As silly as I know this sounds, a teeny bit of me thought to myself, oh, Putin’s stirring up some new shit. Somebody over there will deal with him. But, then, the images of buildings that had an eerie resemblance just like my own apartment building where I live were laid to waste and scorched from rocket blasts and bombardment coming across the small and large screen. Yet, it was not here in New York. It was in Ukraine. 

Being real, the first time I had even heard of a country called Ukraine was during an interview I saw with footballer striker, Andriy Shevchenko. 

As he was speaking and mentioned he was from Ukraine, I wondered where that was. Looking up where it was on a map, I found out it was near Russia. I figured, oh, he must be Russian. I’ll admit that is my own asinine memory of just chalking it up to where I thought he came from. I had never heard of that place in Europe before, as I was enjoying a victorious post-match interview he was giving to a sideline reporter. 

When I started writing this article, I thought back to something as seemingly frivolous as a television interview with a noted footballer almost two decades ago, to today’s sobering landscape that is underway in Ukraine. 

Revealing a little bit about yours truly, I have to tell anyone who is reading this that I am an information junkie. I guess that’s just a quirk of my personality. Ever since I was a kid, little bits and pieces of information, here and there; have just stuck in my head. As the situation in Ukraine was bubbling up to the surface in the past couple of months, my memory bank started rolling on that bit of information I’d heard two decades ago. 

Information that can seem like a throwaway always has a way of coming in handy. In the moment of writing this article, the aforementioned tidbit about ‘Sheva’ has just done that for me. Back when I first heard of Ukraine, I didn’t pay it much attention at all. In fact, my mind just interchanged the country of Ukraine for Russia and Russia for Ukraine. But, they are not interchangeable as being a single entity. 

“Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people. Russian troops have already fired nearly 1,000 missiles at Ukraine, countless bombs, they use drones to kill us with precision. This is a terror that Europe has not seen for 80 years and we are asking for our life for an answer to this terror from the whole world” – Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine President, March 16th. 2022

Each country on that continent is distinct of language and culture; but, never history. 

Being born an American, it is unlikely that I or my fellow countrymen and countrywomen shall know the callow wail of air sirens, tremble of ground reconfigured by the weight of tanks, or that incessant tolling of bell’s battle. 


In the year 2022, where nations boast of being highly evolved and technologically advanced, those previous pair of words would seem something alien to the senses. Yet, NEVER AGAIN (translated from German) is here once more, like an agonized apparition reappearing in purgatory. 

The Ukrainian people are taking the fight to their genocidal oppressor. In this case, these are not the Nazis invading their land, but the Russian troops sent by Putin. Like an old woman whose unflappable courage to walk right up to one of the well-armed Russian soldiers and speak her truth:

“Put the sunflower seeds in your pockets, please. You will lie down here with the seeds. You came to my land. Do you understand? You are occupiers. You are enemies. And, from this moment, you are cursed. I’m telling you”. – Ukrainian woman[1] to Russian soldier, February 24th, 2022

From a woman on the street to the nation’s President, the Ukrainian people are standing tall in the face of horrific adversity befalling them from their bullying neighbor next door. 

In the tide of Putin’s aggression; there is a counting of the dead, indexing of the misery and archiving of whatever else may remain on the blood-soaked soil where dreams die. 

When members of the Biden Administration speak with that scholarly air of not meeting the moment of what is being pleaded for by President Zelenskyy in setting up a no-fly zone over the skies of Ukraine as being tantamount to setting off World War Three; what they seem not to truly appreciate is that the people whose lives are being bombed the hell out of, are already living through World War Three.

As they speak about not one inch of NATO territory being breached by Putin’s forces and what their response will be to that, it seems to me as if saying those words are just a blanket of convenience or self-delusional curtain that is being used to not fully confront the ongoing humanitarian crisis that is destroying lives of the Ukrainian people. 

Since Russia’s 1994 annexation[2] of Crimea from Ukraine, a rising tide of various human rights abuses, from detention, torture, and citizen extractions by Russia have been reported by the United Nations, which also included the persecution of indigenous Crimean Tatars, who are ethnically Sunni Muslim.

Putin’s playbook has been like a slow motioning cloud of regression over the country of Ukraine for many a year. Located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, the peninsula of Crimea was his starting point of recapturing Ukraine under the Russian tent.

Right to the line, Putin goes. Bombardment to miles near the border with Poland happens. A verbal lashing of this person being a war criminal begins. 

But, does anyone really think that the man that’s getting tagged by the President of the United States and others as being a war criminal would truly give a fuck of what people think about him? Or, are going to do to him?

No, of course not. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has his stash of currency, gold bars, and cluster of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons to keep his icy soul warm on a cold St. Petersburg night.

The only way a person in that position of power is leaving that position will be at his own time and place. There is not going to be a perp walk of Vladdy P.

Unless someone is going to skydive into the middle of Moscow and residences at the Kremlin or the official residence named Novo-Ogaryevo[3] and onto Sochi, where the summer residence of dacha Bocharov-Ruchey is located along the Black Sea to slap silver or maybe platinum cuffs on him and take him out of Russia; then we should stop playing the game of verbal judo with him.

Speaking of Sochi, that location was where the Olympic Winter Games were held in 2014. Oddly enough in the sphere of timing from then to now, the invasion into Ukraine came within a month of the conclusion of another Winter Olympics. This time it was the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, hosted by President Xi, who had feted his ally President Putin at the opening ceremonies. 

So, if Vladimir Putin wants capitulation from Volodymyr Zelenskyy and he does not get it, what happens next?

One thing is for sure, and that fact is that the people of Ukraine are in the crosshairs and are going to continue to die because of Putin, as the bombing continues, the buildings crumble, and the lives are extinguished.

“The wars of the past have prompted our predecessors to create institutions that should protect us from war, but they unfortunately don’t work. We see it, you see it, so we need new ones, new institutions, new alliances and we offer them” – Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine President, March 16th, 2022

As always in times like this there the dancers of the diplomatic dos-à-dos using those one-hundred dollar words which are proving just how far removed they are from being on the frontlines of calamity. They reside in comfort at the United Nations or in Brussels in their fantastically furnished offices with polished plaques of servitude upon the walls. They give thoughtful speeches in air-conditioned conference rooms, as peacekeepers that are stationed on the ground around the globe are patrolling and standing guard on mission. Peacekeepers are the ones who deal with the muck of misery, while diplomats stand before banks of cameras proffering words of strength to the masses of the world.

And, after the speeches of verbal lashing and sorrow for the victims and refugees are given, then comes a settling upon what can the world do next. Will it be brief and quick in a snap? Not as fast as what the people living with the constant shelling on the ground are trying to deal with everyday. But, hey, leaders of the world are making plans for down the road. No, not today, but down the road. 

Of course, there will be another heralded global summit coming down the line, where leaders of the world will meet at some fancy resort to take a ‘political class picture’ and jawbone each other for a few hours. The G’s are the international get-togethers that are well known. One of them being G20 and the second being the artist formerly known as G8, which has been demoted to G7 because of Russian President Putin’s annexation of Crimea. 

Low hum of background chatter in the diplomatic sphere is ramped up on how the world is going to allow a carving up of Ukraine with Putin not having to face the music for his actions. For what Russian President Vladimir Putin has put in motion with this invasion into Ukraine, he deserves not a peep of suggestion in having an ‘off-ramp’ to allow him to save face.

This is a moment in history when the aggressor and invader should not be given an ‘out’ of being held accountable. 

Maybe the old gramophone should be cranked up and some flighty Wagner should be Vladimir’s soundtrack for what an existence shall be for his own endgame. 

For anyone not in the arena of war to sit back and float ideas of how there should be a way that Vladimir Putin can be negotiated with and just be given a timeout on the world stage or some kind of stinging whack on the back of the hand, is a type of logic that makes no sense at all to me. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn’t need a suspension on the scoreboard of global government leaders. His portrait needs to be null and void for infinity. 

Now, if NATO does not want to afford the request of President Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine a full measure of respect in providing that no-fly zone, then in some ways maybe the media should just stop filming the misery and not let the world know what is going on in Kyiv and every city in that aforementioned country. 

It’s hard to have it both ways. Telling the world that what is going on is a hell on earth, while not doing one of the things that would stem the carnage. NATO has the power to do more. So, please do it. 

No-fly zone!!

When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, officials working at the St. Petersburg mayor’s office were eager to turn the page towards the future by replacing the portraits which had been hung in their offices. As the portrait of the first elected presidential leader, Boris Yeltsin had found a place on many walls, there was one person who chose to go by the beat of a different drum. Or, should I say, a Great-er persuasion. Vladimir Putin was the then personal assistant to the Mayor of St. Petersburg and proved back then that he had grander visions for himself. Czar Peter the Great was the portrait[4] he hung in his office. 

Fast forward through the 1990’s into the 2000’s:

Whoop!  Let’s stop on the date of July 25, 2016. With all that has happened in the past decade, let me give anyone who is reading this a little refresher. 

July 25th, 2016 was the date when the Federal Bureau of Investigation publicly announced an investigation into Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computer system. Yet, it was on that same date that there were reports about Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential election, with the bear placing its’  thumb on the scale for one of the two candidates. And, it definitely was not on behalf of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

Enter Vlad’s favorite choice, Donnie Trump. 

2016, Donald Trump is elected to the highest office in the USA. Then in 2019, President Donald J. Trump makes a telephone call that was so far from ‘perfect’, that he was impeached for it. But, then again, I guess the first impeachment must have been some sort of perverse turn-on for him that he needed a good impeaching one more time in 2021. 

Once again, that which is unlikely came to be. How unlikely it was that Trump came up against someone who didn’t bend to his will. 

Trump Impeachment One: The Ukraine Shakedown 2020

When Trump made that telephone call to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy and tried to twist an average budgetary decision in supplying military aid into a ham-handed, slobbering of something coming across like a street corner shakedown[5] towards a foreign leader; it revealed exactly how craven the man in the oval office could be. Yet, Zelenskyy didn’t take the bait. Oh, of course it would have been so easy for President Zelenskyy to just agree to President Trump’s terms of sliming his then political opponent, Joseph R. Biden with scurrilous insulations. 

Zelenskyy’s rebuffing of Trump in 2019 was an unlikely harbinger into a glimpse of Zelenskyy’s mettle which is on full display now in 2022. 

Trump Impeachment Two: Insurrection Insanity 2021

Like reading a script from an authoritarian’s playbook, Trumpworld screeched about the media being enemy of the people and peddlers of fake news whenever journalists told the truth about his losing the election of 2020. But, Donald Trump would not just pack his crap and leave the White House, without causing democracy to be under threat of violence by his own words and deeds. 

It was Trump’s quest for dissolving democracy like a fizzy tablet of Alka-Seltzer for his own Putin-like takeover of an office he lost by a fair and free election that led to that somber day of January 6th, 2021. 

Donald J. Trump may no longer be in the office of the Presidency of the United States of America, but he sure as anything remains slithering towards a possible announcement of making a second claim upon the White House. 

In February 2022, the axiom of the poet Lord Byron’s ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ seems as if it is on steroids. 

“I listened to him constantly using the n-word, that’s the n-word, and he’s constantly using it; the nuclear word.” – Donald J. Trump, former President of the United States of America, March 21st, 2022[6a]

Oh, come on! Where’s Allen Funt with the “Candid Camera” team? Where’s Ashton Kutcher with the “Punk’d” team? I mean, damn, the universe must be pulling my leg in some sort of sick joke in that statement actually coming from the former President of the United States of America. But, in the upside down world of white being black and black being white, the truth of what comes out of the eternally flapping gums of that man can be seen[6b] and heard in all of his delusional glory. 

Some things you can’t make up. But, the lengths that Donald J. Trump and others in the sea of subverting democracy have and are going to in a flirtatious waltz with Russian President Vladimir Putin is cast beneath a shroud of all which is deadly serious. 

In some sort of media mutual admiration society, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a hearty thumbs-up to his televised propaganda machine in running Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson’s laudatory words[7] on an expanded loop on Russian state television. 

“NATO exists primarily to torment Vladimir Putin” – Tucker Carlson

Even as the Russians were ramping up to invade Ukraine, Tucker Carlson continued an authoritarian flirtation with Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Putin in Russia. It was then when the Fox News commentator received what for most would seem like an unwanted pat on the back for his nightly love-notes to both of those ruthless leaders. Carlson’s carefree winking and nodding of support of the nationalistic conservatism of Orban and Putin’s iron grip of power has paid off in a public shout-out from a high-ranking member of the Russian government. 

“If you take the United States, only Fox News is trying to present some alternative points of view.” – Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, March 18th, 2022

Hearing Lavrov talk about ‘alternative points of view’, almost sounds as off-the-wall as former Trump administration counselor Kellyanne Conway describing outright lies as ‘alternative facts’ back in the days of President Donald Trump being in office. 

Well, I guess ‘TrumpThink’ and ‘PutinThink’ both come off like they are using global memory-erasers that the characters Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones used in their portrayals in the film “Men in Black”. They want you to believe you’ve seen nothing and heard nothing which contradicts anything that is revealed to you. 

Open your eyes and don’t be fooled by what is said from their lips. Remember that the actions from both Trumpworld and PutinPalace are what the truth of what is happening right now really is.

But, in a world where some are miserably meandering into a marsh of misinformation, there are those who stand fast upon the rock of courage. 

Unlikely man who stepped into the breach as a leader is someone who very few would have ever guessed to being able to go toe to toe with an ex-KGB agent. Oh, a former comedian? You’ve got to be kidding me? 

Yet, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a man whose voice[8] in the Ukraininan dubbed version of a plush bear in the 2014 and 2016 motion pictures, “Paddington” and “Paddington 2”, is the same valiant soul that is battling the Russian bear. Wow, this is rich. You can’t make this stuff up, as Byron’s axiom ticks through my brain. 

Zelenskyy is doing more than just going toe to toe with Putin. He is exemplifying what a leader truly is. He isn’t hiding in a bunker somewhere, or sitting at the end of a long, long table in an ornate room like the Russian President is in Kremlin photo ops. 

President Zelenskyy isn’t afraid to be in the streets with his people. Or, take to live streaming his daily updates in what is occurring in his country, to worldwide audiences; from the average citizen to halls of varied governments. 

Truth is stranger than fiction, as a hero has arisen beyond expectation.

It has been one month since the Russian incursion into Ukraine on February 24th, 2022. Many military experts have said that it would be unlikely for the Ukrainians to succeed in defeating the Russian army. It could be simple to just throw our hands up and wait for that which some who are the experts have predicted. But, nothing in life is pre-determined, as we all have seen in these past couple of weeks of those brave men and women who have taken up arms, trained and prepared with blood, sweat, tears, and a fighting spirit that I have watched from afar in awe of. 

Ukrainians are still holding on. Ukrainians are still standing. Maybe there is another parallel track that might not look like what success is imagined to be. Another word could be what it all comes down to. The word is – victory.  

As to victory; it might just rest in the hands of those who clasp their fist tightly with determination and tap their chest to feel the beating heart within themselves of their ancestors upon the land for which they were born. 

Glory to Ukraine! 

A.H. Scott


March 2022

“Everlast!” – The Footnotes:

1. –“Ukrainian Woman Offers Seeds To Russian Soldiers” – YouTube

2. – “What Happened With NATO When Putin Invaded in 2014” – News Co. UK

3. – “Official Residences Of Russia President Vladimir Putin” – Russia Beyond

4. – “Putin Is On A Quest For Historical Significance By Invading Ukraine” – The Conversation

5. – “How The Ukraine Invasion Connects To Trump’s First Impeachment” – Politico

6a. – “Trump Says US Needs To Get Off the Sidelines in Ukraine’s Fight For Survival” – Fox Business Network via YouTube

6b. – “Trump says US needs to get off the sidelines in Ukraine’s fight for survival” – Varney & Company, Fox Business Network via YouTube

7. – “Kremlin Memos Urged Russian Media To Use Tucker Carlson Clips” – The Guardian

8. – “Studio Canal Confirms Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Voiced Paddington” – The Hollywood Reporter


About The Author: A.H. Scott is a poet based in New York City and frequent contributor to Tony Ward Studio. To read additional articles by Ms. Scott, go here:
A.H. Scott’s book: Bad Guys Finish Fast & Good Guys Finish Last is available on Amazon!