Traveling with Mr Madison

stippling engraving of James Madison, Presiden...

In what I deem to be a significant accomplishment, I finally managed, on the third try, to complete a bio of our fourth president. The book is entitled, The Fourth President- A Life of James Madison by Irving Brant. Here I was thinking that this 642 page tome, written in 1969, was a tough read. This book is actually drawn from Brant's 6 volume, 3000 + page work. Guess I got off easy.

As always seems to be the case, I came away fascinated with Madison himself and all that he achieved, but also with the entire cast of characters with whom he interacted. Perhaps foremost among would be first lady Dolley, she who saved Washington’s  famous portrait just before the White House was burned in the war of 1812. She  was often described as glamorous and  arguably one of the best of our  first ladies. Or, as Brant wrote, ” Madison’s marriage had given him an effective sidearm.”

So, how can one describe the man who was the “father of the Constitution,” Secretary of State for 8  perilous years and the only president who served when his country was invaded? Brant used 3000 pages and  I will use fewer words than that. That is always a real dilemma when reading about a president, particularly an accomplished one, although his average ranking among presidents{ from 1948-2000) comes in around 12th. He just seems worthy of more. I kinda like him above Jefferson myself. His relationship with Jefferson himself was quite  was intriguing. They were rather close, although Madison want Jefferson’s puppet as he was accused of being. Nor was Jefferson controlled by Madison when he was Secretary of State. It was said that Madison often rescued Jefferson from some of his worst ideas.

Madison was often pilloried in the press, by the Federalist opposition and by  a somewhat belligerent Congress. It was amusing to hear him described by some of the above as well as the representatives of foreign governments. He was simultaneously weak nad timid but power mad. He was beholden to France , no he was in league with Britain. He wants war, why doesn’t  he  want war?

This quote from page 674 of Brant’s book in some ways summed up Madison for me. This was during some of the worst times of the war.

For more than four days the 64 year-old President had spent up to 20 hours in the saddle. Accused of fleeing to safety, he had been with the army at its farthest point of advance, followed it to battle, was under fire and came back to Washington  ahead of the army after the debacle. He found the  White House, (and) the Capitol………… a mass of gaunt and blackened ruins.

It often appeared that lies and falsehoods spread during his day were actually not refuted for many, many years leading to a less than flattering opinion of one to who, we owe much.

As he wrote in 1834 near the end of his life, the following,  which he desired to be  published after his death. ” The advice nearest to my heart and deepest in my convictions is that the Union of the States be cherished and perpetuated.” A man small  in stature and  by no means physically  imposing, what he wrote and championed secures his place among the Founding Fathers.


April 30, 2011 Posted by | History | , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Falling Short

Today is, of course, Easter Sunday. I believe I could safely say that it is the greatest day in Christendom, a day of  joy and celebration for those who call themselves  followers of Jesus. Even for nominal Christians( whatever that means) and those who have no connection to church, it is often that one Sunday each year when they make their pilgrimage to church. I have often heard that practice described as people thinking they are doing God  a favor by dropping by.

Thanks to the wonders of technology I knowe that I have one of  my children and her family attended Easter services today and had quite a good experience and another made it to their first Easter Sunrise service and also had good experience, I know, without officially knowing, that almost all and probably all of my extended family ( sisters, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law,etc) attended church today, the churches they attend on a regular basis.

So,who am I leaving  out in the above description? Alas, that would be yours truly. Yep, I had  every  intention of going today. I  wasnt going to make the sunrise service since that would have required a 5:00 am wake up call. But the church we started attending recently offered several options left no good excuse. Sad to say, I still did not make it. The day that is most glorious and offers us hope beyond measure became a  day in which I did not take part. Somewhat ironically even technology failed me. I found ” our” services online streaming live. So at least I would be able to take part to some extent. But, alas, my computer chose to show its unseemly self and froze twice during the broadcast, leaving me bereft of that option as well. All of this is certain  to leave one at a loss. Next Sunday will not be Easter and the atmosphere will be different but once again I will have the opportunity to join a community of faith. It isn’t actually a ” do-over” but it is still  awonderful opportunity to have. After all, if we sing the Don Francisco song, “He’s Alive” today, it will be no less true next Sunday.

April 24, 2011 Posted by | Christianity, Family | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Make friends with a hacker

Hackers seem to be very interesting people. I say this based on what I read since as far as I  know, I have no hacking acquantiances. But as  our society becomes ever more dependent on the internet, there will  be more of these cybercrooks or Robin Hoods, depending on one’s point of view. Or it may depend on whether or not one has been victimized by their talents. For that is one thing on which we can agree. They are quite talented.

Anyone who is  a fan of NCIS is quite familiar with Timothy McGee, aka “probie” and his talents at hacking into systems as complex as the Pentagon  and CIA. Watching the show I marvel at his skill and how Gibbs can employ it to his advantage in solving a crime. But at the same I have often wondered  if  there are actually  people  out there doing what McGee does or at  least trying to do it?

After reading an online article today, I fear that the answer is yes. It appears that online marketer Epsilon has been hacked and its online systems somewhat compromised. Who is Epsilon and why should I be concerned about them being hacked? It might be the fact that among their clients are such names as  Citigroup, College Board, Capitol One, Walgreens and Verizon Communications, names with which many of us are familiar.

Epsilon is a unit of Alliance Data Systems, Inc and  as an online marketer sends more than 40 billion ( that’s billion with a “b” ) emails annually composed of ads or offers. But, don’t worry. Some of the companies affected are telling their customers that no sensitive info was released ( at least so far) and as for Epsilon, they are fully co-operating in the investigation. But that cannot confirm which companies have been affected or how many people or what kind of data. Feeling warm and fuzzy yet? Or maybe wanting to scale back  on your online activity?  Maybe I need to check my email to see if perhaps there is  a company on the list with which I have had contact. McGee, I need help!

By the way, would you like to have  Jessica Simon’s job right now? She just happens to the spokesperson for Epsilon. Gonna  be  a busy person for   a while.

April 3, 2011 Posted by | Media, Technology | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments