Tarheeltalker

Anonymity

I remember well a scene from the first Mission Impossible  movie in which Tom Cruise (aka Ethan Hunt) meets “Job”   wonderfully played by Vanessa Redgrave, and asks about the name Job. She  responds that ” anonymity … is like a  warm blanket.” Been  thinking about that quote a lot recently in the context of  blog/article comments made on the internet.

Most of the comments that I read are made by a person under a name other than their own. ( I know, so is my blog.) It is interesting to notice the screen names that people choose and speculate about why they were chosen. My thought has long been that these names are often used as a cover to make comments or observations that the person would never make using his/her own name. But, you might say that one uses a screen name to keep one’s identity from falling into the wrong hands, so to speak. I think that is only true in a minority of  instances. My reasoning goes thusly. The comments on polarizing figures or issues such as President Obama or Rush Limbaugh or Michele Bachmann or healthcare or any number of others are filled with such vitriol that one is almost embarrassed to one’ s self identified with them.

Even when I read comments that mirror my own, I am chagrined to note the level of anger that is involved. I can make comments ( and so can you)  about a political figure or issue without becoming tarred with my own brush and still be effective.

It is amusing to note that newspapers  and I suppose magazines have long-held to the policy of  rarely if ever publishing an anonymous comment and I like that. The few  times that I have written  in response to a newspaper article  were not situations where I  minded being identified.

In the wild, wild west of the internet the rules, such as they are much different. Makes me wonder if I need to rename my blog?

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August 21, 2011 Posted by | Media | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Gaggle of Republicans

As of today, there are officially 10 republicans in the running for the party’s presidential nomination. There are at least 4 other  potential candidates. This is definitely a case for that old baseball axiom that you can’t know the players without a scorecard.

At this stage of the process, anything is possible and hope springs eternal  as in baseball’s  spring training. While it is early, of course it is not as early as it might seem. President Obama will obviously run for  a second term and among other advantages that he has are an excellent fund-raising apparatus and a significant advantage in name recognition over most of  his potential  opponents ( other than Palin and maybe Bachmann, who will still only the second most well-known Michele-hint, hint).

It is fascinating to me to see the interaction among those already declared and the coyness of those on the sidelines. And, let us not forget the curse of the front-runner. Mitt Romney is probably still in the ” head lead” as a childhood friend of mine said. But, Michele  Bachmann is closing fast and may actually lead in Iowa polls.

Right now, Iowa native Bachmann has 22% and Romney 23% in a Des Moines Register poll. If one has any math skills that would leave 55% to be divided 8 ways and that doesn’t  sound so good. Can you win Iowa and lose the nomination oh yeah- and the opposite is also true. It is also true that one can be ruined in the Iowa caucus which will take place on February 6, 2012.

This will be an interesting journey to chronicle so just for the record, I will at least name the 10 who are in and the four who are not.

Hovering  on the sidelines are Sarah Palin, Rick Perry ( Rush’s choice and mine) , John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani.

Those in it to win it, I guess, are the aforementioned Romney and Bachmann along with the following, in no particular order: Jon Huntsman, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Gary Johnson, Mitch Daniels and Rick Santorum. ( ” Fringe  candidates not included.)

Perhaps the best candidate would be  a guy who has already recused himself, Jeb Bush. Should be quite lively with Paul, Palin and Bachmann in the fray, should it not?

June 27, 2011 Posted by | Media, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Political Strategery

The Obama Administration announced that it is releasing 30 million gallons of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. ” Experts” are calling this  an excellent change in policy that will certainly help to calm the volatile oil markets. But, other experts are saying why now? So, who can we believe? I am taking my cue from Treasury Secretary Geithner who when speaking at a Dartmouth College panel discussion said the release was not political. It was using the reserve for that which it was  designed, to mitigate disruptions such as those brought about by the conflict in Libya. So, naturally if Mr Geithner says it is not political I must feel otherwise. Why might one feel that way? Let us see. For starters the reserve has 727 million barrels of oil and the President’s instructions released around 4% of that total. Next, Libya typically exports about 1.5 million barrels per day, a figure which is down to about  1/3 of that total. So, the amount of oil released was really not designed to  replace lost production, etc but rather to what? Perhaps it was designed  to occur in the midst of the ongoing decline in oil prices ( which leads to lower gasoline prices) thus causing a bit of an acceleration the decline. Then we have an end result of the Obama Administration claiming credit for the price of gasoline declining. A bit convoluted, perhaps, but just wait and see. But we must not drill for any additional oil, just pay Brazil to do so.

June 26, 2011 Posted by | Politics, Reading, Religion | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Are you rejoicing yet?

A couple of days ago ,a headline  in our local paper read thusly: Bin  Laden killed, America rejoices! I  suppose that  I failed to get the memo, since I  have not felt the urge to jump for joy. I have given a bit of thought to this event since its occurrence and perhaps even more thought to its aftermath. Of course I  am not alone in writing about these thoughts. Time magazine already has an issue devoted to all aspects of the event. Hooray for instant journalism. My son has written a  thoughtful post about  reactions to the killing/assassination that explore among other things the part that revenge plays.

For now I have thoughts that are more political in nature. There has been a significant internal debate in the  Obama administration about releasing a photo confirming  Bin Laden’s death. Personally it would be quite unseemly to do and many who are calling it a necessity( Sarah Palin for one) remind me of people who cannot avert their eyes from auto accidents  or any number of other disasters.

I actually applaud the President’s decision not to release a photo. But what intrigued me was his choice of words in describing the decision. We don’t “want to spike the football.”  Now as a football fan I know to what he refers,as does almost any sports fan. Laying aside the thought that this was an overly casual choice of phrases I infer that he sees no need to gloat and/or overly politicize the event.

Not to worry though. There are other available to carry the water for him in that regard. For example, Barbara Walters says that she would hate to be  a Republican running against Obama in 2012. Her sidekick, Joy Behar, said that maybe we should just skip the 2012 election completely, just not even bother. Others such as E J Dionne and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin have voiced or inferred similar sentiments.

After pondering this for a bit it finally hit me. Think back to 1991 just after the end of the Gulf War.George H W Bush is basking the glow of  an approval rate of over  90%  .The election is just  over 18 months away. Game over? Nope. In that instance the state of the economy was arguably the deciding factor. I think that will again be the case. For example gasoline prices are almost 3x higher than they were just over 2 years ago.If  there  is no discernible change in that number as well as others  in the economic realm, anything can happen in 2012 and probably will.

May 6, 2011 Posted by | Foreign Policy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Confused about Libya? Me too!

And just think what the people in the Ivory Coast must be wondering when they see us involved  in Libya, but not in their country. After several days of air strikes,cruise missile launchings, actual reports of French jets hitting  their  targets, do we have  a clue about the final outcome and even why we are involved? Why are we involved actually is what I have wondered all along + why the President did  not consult with the Congress before beginning whatever this is.

Of course this “adventure”  of ours  stems from what to all intents and purposes is  a Libyan civil war, between forces loyal to Hugo Chavez’ best friend, Col Gaddafi, and those intent on recreating the Egyptian experience of just a few weeks ago. Unlike the events in Egypt, there is a much stronger force intent on maintaining the status quo. So, of all sources to ask us, among others, to intervene, the Arab League called for the imposition of  a no fly zone to prevent the Libyan air force from massacring those opposing the Colonel.

So, American, French and British set out to do just that, ground the Libyan air force. What would be almost amusing, were it so deadly serious, is how quickly the Arab League got more than it expected. Libyan planes were shot down, antiaircraft guns were silenced and some people were killed. I  have no intention of poking fun at all, but how exactly did the Arab League expect a no fly zone to be established?  Just ask the Libyan pilots nicely to stay on the ground?

Anyway, the no fly zone was established and then what ensued? Gaddafi’s forces have continued to fight, NATO nad its allies are bickering and whatever we and our NATO  allies are doing goes on, with no specific end or goal.

And, if you missed it while watching events in Libya, not all that far away in Syria, there are anti government protests, accompanied by a government crackdown. Just ask yourself, at what point do we intervene there? Who will have to ask and how much turmoil will have to ensue and how will the decision be made? Will Congress  have  a voice next time;when there is  a next time? Mr President, the people of the Ivory Coast  are on line one.

March 24, 2011 Posted by | International politics | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Revolution by any other name is?

Events in Egypt are still unfolding. The anti-government protests are into day#14 and the final outcome is far from being determined.So, what can we say at this point? Therein lies a problem. What one says sort of “smells” like instant analysis. Although that is a staple of  our culture, it often misses the boat completely. As an illustration, look at how the Obama administration has reacted or spoken at various times since events began to unfold.

Remember vice-president Biden saying that Mubarak was not  a dictator and should not resign?  Then we have Secretary Clinton saying that we are not advocating any specific  outcome  but then urging an orderly transition. The President has spoken to Mubarak, probably more than once and has reportedly urged him to go. He has stated that we hear you in referring to the demonstrators. Today he said that Egypt was not going back to the way it was, although I believe the Egyptian military will have  a big say in that. He opined that the Muslim Brotherhood will have  a role but not a significant one. He accurately said that we cannot dictate to Egypt but  we want to see orderly change. By definition, that seems to be quite unlikely.

But what most grabbed my attention in the Associated Press article were the phrases “pro-democracy protests” and “pro-democracy protesters.” I don’t  know if those words came from Robert Burns or Kimberly Dozier who bylined the article. And I hesitate to comment to strongly but I firmly believe those characterizations are way off base. It would be wonderful to see a democracy in Egypt. But what ever form of government emerges, it will not be  a  democracy. If there were a way to ask a representative sample of those demonstrating if they were pro democracy you would get few if any takers. As an illustration walk backwards in  egyptian history ans see what you discover.

So we watch and we wait and we wonder and some of us demonstrate in support of Egypt. Those of us who are so inclined would also do well to pray.

February 6, 2011 Posted by | International politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who is the President of the world?

Monday, February 21 is Presidents Day. Ostensibly  it is a day set aside to honor two of the greatest, if not the greatest of the 43 men who have served in that office.The 42nd president as we all  know was William Jefferson Blythe Clinton from Hope, AR. Mr Clinton has been called many things by friend and foe alike. He may now have acquired the ultimate title, “President of the World.”

Thanks to his new bff, Chris Matthews (alias tingles) , that is the title of a special set to air on Presidents Day. Matthews spent time with Clinton on  a veritable  whirlwind week  chock full of all the wonderful things in which he is involved. I will acknowledge that Mr Clinton has done some  very good things since leaving office, partnering with George H W Bush in humanitarian activities, pushed for aid to Haiti, just to name a few. His global initiative has  also been quite active.

This program and its title raises a few questions. The title itself may be the most significant. Come on, fellows. No one merits such a designation. Perhaps the title is meant to catch one;s attention or maybe it is just a blatant example of fawning from a network who has done it before. Remember the tingle that ran up a newsman’s  leg when a certain president spoke; the same president that he was bound to help succeed. Who was that gentleman? Why the same president often spoke of as the One. Have we changed our allegiances?

Have we turned our back on the individual often called the greatest former preside, Jimmy Carter? He too has been a prolific traveler abroad since leaving office in 1981. He has monitored  elections, met with many world leaders and also started the well-known Carter Center in Atlanta.

Now, if were to attempt to compare the two men since they left office, there would be strong similarities. Could the main difference be that along the way Mr Clinton  has become quite wealthy and maybe, just maybe seeks out the spotlight a bit more? Bet he’s a lot more fun to travel with as well.By the way, remember that only two of these three presidents have won the Nobel peace Prize. Could this have anything to do with that, Nah!

February 3, 2011 Posted by | Media | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will Egypt be another Iran?

The ongoing turmoil in Egypt is in its sixth day with no obvious end in sight and it is far too early to know the outcome. Perhaps  even informed speculation is  premature. But speculate we do for many reasons. Egypt is a major American ally and has been for  several years, at least back to the Carter presidency.( More on the  Carter connection a bit later.) Egypt is the most populous and probably most influential Arab country with a very large army and air force and is  a very close neighbor of Israel. And so we  wonder about many things. How did this uprising or revolution begin? Was there a trigger event? What ( not if) outside influences are involved?  Vice-president Biden’s comments to the contrary, Mubarak seems unlikely to survive. If he goes, then what or who? Who do we  favor, the government or those opposing the government?

The UK Daily Telegraph has an article today  stating that we have backed Egyptian dissidents who have worked on regime change for at least three years, ostensibly trying to bring about a democratic government. Of course in its 6,000 year history Egypt has never had such  a government  and is unlikely to have one any time soon.

Much of the above referenced speculation is drawing parallels between this uprising and the Iranian hostage crisis  of 1979. The result of course was an Iran with which we still have issues. Some are calling this a Carter moment for Obama, i.e. Carter”lost” Iran and Obama could be well on his way to “losing” Egypt.

Meanwhile the turmoil, including  rioting, looting, organized prison breaks etc continues. And at least three countries, Israel, Turkey and the United States have begun evacuating their citizens with others preparing to do likewise.

The turmoil will eventually end  and answers to most if not all of our questions  will come. But what kind of outcome will that be?

January 30, 2011 Posted by | International politics | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Senator who saved Gunsmoke

West and Gordon

…………..  and the one who tamed The Wild, Wild West. On Tuesday evening we were searching for a viewing alternative to Obama’s State of the Union address. Lo, and behold we discovered a great choice on PBS, of all places. Seems that the network has a series on The Pioneers of Television. Tuesday’s  episode dealt with television westerns and was a real treat to watch. Westerns were a viewing staple in my childhood and as it turned out in my wife’s as well.

The show was composed of interviews with many actors who appeared in  the shows, clips from the shows themselves and wonderful historical trivia that delighted me no end. Where to begin? Guess that an explanation of the title would be apropos.

During the 1966-67  season CBS noted that Gunsmoke was showing its age and the program that had been s0  dominant was slipping. After all, 12 seasons should be enough, right? Not necessarily. The outcry was significant and even reached to the U S Senate where Robert Byrd expressed his displeasure. Now, that may or may not have had any impact, but  at the least it allows me to think  just  a little more positively of the late senator. Shucks, he liked Matt Dillon, just as I did.

On the opposite side lies another senator who brought about the demise of what remains as one of favorite tv shows ever,The Wild, Wild West. Who was the offending senator and why did he go after Messrs West and Gordon?  The senator was Rhode island Democrat John Pastore. In his place as head of the Senate subcommittee on telecommunications, he held hearings on the effect of tv violence, particularly on children. The Surgeon General testified at these hearings as well. Shortly after the hearings CBS issued a mandate  to all its shows to tone down the violnce.When The Wild, Wild West did not satisfactorily do so, it was summarily;y cancelled in  early 1969. ( No, I was not scarred by the violence.)

There were a number of other enjoyable things  from the PBS show. I was struck by how many actors  talked about the biggest stars with such fondness. Acotrs such as James Arness( who got his role courtesy of John Wayne) Barbara Stanwyck and James Garner were lauded for their kindness and how they set such  a positive tone behind the scenes.

There were some priceless interviews with actors now deceased  such as Arness and his brother Peter Graves. My #1 was the Robert Conrad interview of course. I learned from him and the shows narrator what a genuine tough guy he was, even suffering a concussion when a stunt when awry. Then there was Ross Martin, his running mate,an erudite man who spoke 5 languages and added such finesse to the show.

The show revived some wonderful memories of my teen years and has created a wish to do some dvd shopping. Think the wife may have liked Bonanza better though.

January 27, 2011 Posted by | Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Breaking up is so hard………..

…….  so very hard to do. Compliments of Neil Sedaka  from  a number of years ago, we have an apt description of the departure of Rahm ( never let a crisis go to waste ) Emanuel. It was a little surprising to me to see that ole Rahm become a mite emotional during his farewell appearance. Perhaps that contributed to his historical faux pas in describing his soon to be former boss. His praise of Obama was borderline effusive  as he called  him “the toughest leader any country could ever ask for in the toughest times any president has ever faced.” Being  an ardent observer of political hyperbole I  was attracted to Emanuel’s statement. A brief examination ensues. Starting with part#2 I wonder where that places such historical crises as WWII, the Civil War, the real Great Depression and even such things as the war of 1812. Other presidents who have faced demonstrably tougher times? That would be a lengthy list. Let’s see, Washington, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, James Madison, and possibly even Kennedy, Truman, etc, etc. But it was an emotional time, lots of  sorrow in the room so maybe we shouldn’t judge ole Rahm so harshly, should we? Oh, yeah, we should, since these are ways in which Obama refers to himself. He’s the most criticized, maligned president ever, blah, blah. I repeat from an earlier post. He needs to read just a little about Lincoln’s treatment in the media and by people within as well as outside his own party.

So, we now move from the era of  Rahm who heads to Chicago to become ethe next Richard Daley and we begin a new day with Rahm’s  successor, or at the latest his interim successor. His name is  Pete Rouse, or Mr Fix-It as Obama referred to him. Rouse has been on the Obama team for about 6 years since his then boss Tom Daschle was defeated for re-election in 2004. Mr Rouse is known as a savvy politician and not nearly so media friendly as Emanuel. Shucks, he seems to resemble  a prototypical Chicago pol, so he should fit in very well.

Just  a thought to consider, Emanuel announced his departure last week and today Gen James Jones, the president’s National Security Adviser said that he will be leaving. Do we have  a simple mid-term shuffling ( although it’s not mid-term) or something of  a rats jumping the ship situation?  Whichever is true it is quite fun to watch, is it not?

October 11, 2010 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment