Tarheeltalker

Always on the grid?

Several years ago there was an episode of NCIS where then Director Shepard( Lauren Holly) made a clandestine  trip to Moscow in search of information that would either clear her father or help her in capturing ”  la grenouille” . During that time she went off the grid as was bluntly called to her attention by good ole Leroy Jethro Gibbs ( Mark Harmon) , once she returned to Washington.

For my purposes, the key element in that scene was the grid to which Gibbs referred. In this case it was not the electric power grid that  is  somewhat well publicized, but  a different kind of grid.  Holly’s character was the head of an armed federal agency and as such could not  become incommunicado. And in our story she did that very thing.

I was reminded of that  upon seeing a segment of the Today Show that dealt with the death of the telephone. The part that I saw interviewed at least two people  in the know about such things, one of them from Wired magazine, who opined that the telephone was dead and it was about time. His feelings are most definitely shared by  outsidethebeltway.com writer James Joyner. He wrote an article on July 31, 2010  expressing how annoying and terribly intrusive a telephone call actually is. And he made this point that really ties in to the point I am trying to make. The current generation hardly ever makes phone calls because they are in constant  lightweight contact, defined as texting, instant messaging , tweeting, etc.

So, its it a good or necessary thing to be in constant contact. to be always on the grid, so to speak? The majority of us do not need to be always available via  a tweet or Facebook or hundreds or thousand of  daily text messages. I   share Mr Joyner’syner that this is,generally speaking, lightweight communication. Surely a part of my inclination is that I am from  a generation that has not always been  totally wired, but I think/hope it is more than that.

My wife and I have shared many times with one another in  a phone call the  words that” I just wanted to hear your voice” . We do text, but for us, it will never be an adequate substitute for the voice of the one person who means more to  you than any other.

Perhaps, Mr Bell’s invention is on the way out.  But from my  perspective, I hope that it takes the long way.

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March 10, 2011 Posted by | Media, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Here Comes the Suit

The lawsuit that is. And word of it comes from a somewhat unlikely source. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said  just over a  week ago  that the Administration would be suing  the state of Arizona. Her phrase was that the  Justice Department “will be bringing a lawsuit against the act.”

Her comment  has finally been confirmed by an unnamed U. S. official speaking on condition of anonymity. An Administration official commenting on the evil Arizona law does not want his/her name used. You would think it would be an honor to be against this travesty of a law. I’m surprised that Obama spokespersons were not standing in line to confirm this announcement.

It is amusing to me that word first came from someone other than Attorney General Eric Holder or even Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano, the previous governor of Arizona. But especially puzzling that Holder was not involved since he is over the Justice Department. Perhaps he is finally getting around to reading the law.

Got a feeling that Governor Brewer is not all that upset with the announcement of a forthcoming lawsuit. The suit would perhaps be the opportunity for a long needed discussion on immigration reform which is after all under the purview of the federal government. But since this  administration has failed to act on said issue as did the Bush administration, Arizona has made the issue  a priority. Obama  had made such reform a major campaign promise which has obviously not been the case until now.

An article that I read just yesterday made that very claim, using the phrase “highest prioities” when referring to the  overhauling  of  immigration law. Yeah, right.

Oh, one last tidbit. Governor Brewer has met with the President just  about 2 weeks ago, in a session labeled as cordial. Wonder what that means in Washington words. There  was no yelling and screaming and the meeting closed with a don’t call us, we’ll call you?  Brewer actually did invite the President to come to Arizona and see what the situation is like on the front lines of immigration reform. Answer, no commitment for a visit at this time.

June 20, 2010 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Congressman Unleashed

Anonymity is like a warm blanket. So said  Vanessa Redgrave,aka Job to Tom Cruise in the 1996 movie Mission Impossible. Betcha that Rep Bob Etheridge  from North Carolina’s second district would pay dearly for a measure of that sort of invisibility  about now.

The 7 term Democrat has been caught  in the full glare of the media spotlight due to an event  that occurred just last week. Here’s a guess that it is his first appearance on Drudge and  he hopes his last. What did the  still part-time farmer and former  Superintendent of  Public Instruction for North Carolina do to garner such attention?

Seem sthat last week he was on his way to a Nancy Pelosi fundraiser when he encountered a couple of college students  with  a video camera  who asked him if he supported  the Obama agenda. He demanded to know who they were and when they declined , he grabbed the camera from one person and grabbed the other by the wrist. He persisted in asking for identification and when they did not resond he grabbed one by the  neck and shoulders, refusing to let go. The individual finaly slipped away.

Today, a  few days later, Etheridge finally released  a statement. ( WTVD, the ABC  affiliate in Raleigh had previously left 11 messages requesting comment.)  He acknowledges having seen the video and expresses his regret for his reaction and apologizes to all involved.

Now what? The aforementioned tv station confirmed with DC metropolitan police that no charges had been filed,  which is quite fortunate for Rep. Etheridge. Was it an a ssault ? Follow the link on Drudge and watch the 1: 11  for yourself.  I watched and was disturbed by Etheridge’s reaction, regardless of whether he was provoked. He had a rather tight grip on the wrist of one individual and refused to let go when asked. This is the same congressman who has encouraged college students to get involved in politics.

Granted, there may have been an element of entrapament, emphasis on maybe. That in no way justifies a physical confrontation. Very curious as to what the  reaction will be inside the Beltway. Any doubt that it will be partisan in nature? Good thing Rush will  return tomorrow. This is right up his alley!

June 14, 2010 Posted by | Media, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where has it gone and what did I do with it?

Several years ago, Billy Crystal starred in the movie, City Slickers. It was a movie that I thoroughly enjoyed for its comedy, Norman the calf, crusty old Jack Palance, as well  the comic genius of Crystal himself. But it was much more than a comedy. Its premise of three friends in various stages of midlife crisis was really well done and thought-provoking as well. I am uncertain if I have had my mid- life crisis although I have definitely passed the mid-life part. Unlike Crystal and friends I have zero desire to go on a cattle drive .

There was a phrase spoken by one of the main characters which has begun to resonate with me of late, or rather its meaning has. For me, it goes something like this. What if you have already done the best you’re going to do, achieved your potential whatever it was, in life and career and relationships. And therefore, everything from here on out is a gradual downhill slide into mediocrity or even worse irrelevance?  Maybe this says it better, you’ve done the best you’re going to ver do and it wasn’t all that good?

Sounds sorta morose does it not, which is exactly how Crystal and friends felt in the movie. But as often happens in the the c inematic world, there is  not closure but rather a chance for redemption, another chance one might say.

Alas, life does not always imitate art and  I am abit apprenhensive that it will not in my particular case. This would be  a good time to be a politician, if there ever is. At the time when the careers of most are winding down, the career of the politician is just getting underway. Think otherwise, then look at the ages of  our senators and representatives. And vying to join them from the Tar Heel State is 64-year-old Elaine Marshall. She is now our Secretary of State but  running for the U S Senate. Seems that Ponce de Leon  was off on the location of the Fountain of Youth by a few hundred miles. It is not in Florida, but  749 miles to the north in Washington, DC.

For the vast majority of us, we never find that fountain at all.

May 25, 2010 Posted by | Life, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Other Nuclear Summit

The President hosted a nuclear summit last week in Washington last week. Not to be outdone, another country on the other side of the world, hosted one just a couple of days ago. This event was spearheaded by that noted peace- loving country of Iran. Can you imagine  having something called  a nuclear disarmament conference in Tehran? It would almost be  amusing if it were not true.

And to make things even more interesting, 3 Arab leaders expressed their support for Iranian  nuclear rights. Now that’s a new one  on me, the concept of nuclear rights. The Syrian  Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, is quoted as saying that ” We support Iran’s pursuit of peaceful  nuclear technology.”

Now, just for  a minute think why Iran wants or needs nuclear technoogy. Do they intend to use it to generate electricity? When you are sitting on as much oil as they are, why on earth would you do that?  Wonder what other purpose they might have in mind for  their nuclear knowledge? Weaponry, surely  not, must be missing something here, I guess.

Well   let us hear from 2 other Arab leaders who were at the summit and no Israel wasn’t at this  meeting other. First we hear from Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, Ali al-Shami who said that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and they are certainly not violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Our thirdArab spokesman’s comment should  really get our attention. This is true partly to what he said and partly due  to where he is from. He is Iraqi, yes Iraqi, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. Our Iraqi friend said that “we reject any threat against Iran and insist on Iran’s right( there   is that word, right, again) to use peaceful nuclear energy.” Reckon he cleared those comments with  Obama?

The other thing on which these three agreed may very well the biggest news from the conference. They  all agreed that Israel must dismantle its nuclear  weapons and allow its nuclear facilities to undergo  IAEA inspection. You might say that Israel  has no intention of dismantling anything based on an Arab nuclear summit. And you would be correct. What if these  guys are just stalking horses, so to speak, for someone else and the comment are just the ground work for  stronger demands  by more prominent nations?

Joel Rosenberg described just such an event in his 2005 work of fiction, The Ezekiel Option. In that book, it was, guess who, Russia, who made a dramatic call for Israel’s nuclear disarmament at a U  N session. In the book it was quite well received by virtually everyone. Just wondering.

April 19, 2010 Posted by | International politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What did he mean?

A 47  nation nuclear summit was just concluded in Washington. It was notable in a number of ways. Those who weren’t there, Israel and Britain among others, the minimal opportunity for the media to ask questions, the massive security that wa was in place; just to name a few. One might say that any effort to reduce nuclear weapons or nuclear tensions is always a good thing. Presidents all the way back to Eisenhower have made this a goal. What was accomplished at this latest  session may depend on to whom one pays heed.

Example: reporters Lynn Berry and Betty Nguyen both used the term” complete success.” Whatever it was or wasn’t, it was not complete. Check out some of what Dana Milbank at the Washington Post had to say. By the way, it would accurate to call him  a voice in the wilderness.

Just a portion of what Milbank wrote:

World leaders “entered a capital(ours) that had become a  military encampment with camo-wearing military police in Humvees  and enough Army vehicles to make it look like a May Day parade.” Question, what country does military style May Day parades?

There is more. This is quite interesting when you juxtapose it with another  Obama quote. Milbank again. “In the middle of it all was Obama-occupant of an office once informally known as “leader of the free world.” Ouch!!

Now the Obama quote. Sad to say, this statement may be the most troubling thing that I have heard the President say. I offer it without comment, at least for the moment.

” Whether we like it or not, we remain a military superpower.”

April 14, 2010 Posted by | International politics, Media | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Now?

Obamacare is now the law of the land. Democrats are seen on the House floor cheering and shouting “yes, we can.” Speaker Pelosi and others have expressions of joy heretofore reserved for World Series winners, Super Bowl champs and children who get their perfect Christmas present. Some probably think that is exactly what has happened. A gentleman in Durham,NC is online saying that very thing. “It’s like Christmas.”

As a child I never wondered how my textile worker parents paid for the presents. I was just thrilled to get them. Fast forward 15 years or so and I was the one paying for the presents. Bottom line, someone has to pay for the goodies. The numbers are bandied about that 30+ million uninsured Americans will finally have health care. Well, maybe they will, but not just yet-maybe by 2014. And, as for those who don’t want health care? Guess what, you lose. Get it or pay a fine, courtesy of our newest health care cops- the IRS. As far as the revenue boys are concerned this bill is  a bonanza. Estimates of  5 billion dollars or more in new agents and enforcement tools are being mentioned.

I thought a lot today about all those uninsured who are somehow  seen as a monolithic group. I thought about all the reasons they might be without insurance. Have no clue about percentages but I daresay that many cannot afford coverage. How will they all of a sudden be able to afford it? They won’t of course. There is this thing of a tax credit to enable them to purchase coverage. Wonder how many in their euphoria realize this ain’t happening overnight? Just wondering.

I feel a bit qualified to speak about the uninsured since for several years, my wife and I were in that group. During that time, I had surgery, she had an accident, along with the normal prescriptions and doctor visits. Were we concerned at times? Sure. And we were quite blessed to have no life threatening situations. Neither of us recall thinking that someone owed us health coverage, much less, Uncle Sam.

You see, contrary to what the President said a day or so ago and what many signs and doubtless many politicians have said, I  firmly believe that health insurance is not a right. Perhaps one can make a much better case that it is right. I fear that we as a nation have manufactured yet another right and still another reason to look to and depend on Washington for anything we need.

March 23, 2010 Posted by | Culture, Life and Death, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Summit of Perceptions

This week saw  an event  at the Blair House in Washington that I would really like to call a dog and pony show, except I really like dogs . It was, of course, the President’s health care summit. Purportedly, Democrats and Republicans and Obama would sit down and have a give and  take on the pending health care legislation. Did they? Well, they met, they all talked a lot. There were even some rather ominous looks passed back and forth. But was anything really accomplished and did either side move closer to the other?  Gonna have to vote no on both counts, I think.

However, in any situation like this, we as Americans seem determined to pick a winner or loser or both. So, how did the President fare, since it was his show? Seems  to depend on who you ask. Two perspectives for your consideration and draw your own conclusions, sort of.

The first comes from the blog of Joe Klein. Mr Klein is of the opinion that Obama was the winner and he got this from Drudge. From Drudge? Yep, surprised me too. A quote from Klein’s post. “That the President was  his usual, unflappable, well-informed self.” Republicans were recalcitrant and Congressional Democrats were missing in  action, assuming they were there. His bottom line was shame on the Republicans because they want no health care bill to pass because it would give Obama a victory. You know, sort of  any or the highway, so he says.

Now, another perspective. This one is from Limbaugh. He quotes a number of Republicans as well as several quotes from the President. His report on February 25th was entitled Health Care Summit backfires Big Time on Obama and the Democrats.Guess he didn’t see it the way Klein did. He spoke of  how Biden and Obama and Reid and Pelosi looked bored and disinterested and even unhappy at times. This was just when Sen Lamar Alexander was speaking. This quote from the President to John McCain, ” John, if you don’t know it,the campaign is over. We’re not here to campaign, John. The campaign’s over.” The campaign may be over for McCain but I don’t think it has  ever ended for Obama. Other good stuff from Senator Jon Kyl and  Rep Dave Camp and in particular Eric Cantor.

So, take your pick, Rush or Klein. By the way what was Biden doing there, serving coffee?

February 27, 2010 Posted by | Media, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Old Rough but not Really Ready

Just finished reading a bio of our 12th president, Zachary Taylor written by Jack Bauer, not that Jack Bauer though. I am always fascinated by the things that  draw my interest in my presidential reading ( I’m slightly over halfway,  22 of 43). This is true in a dual way. Number one, I enjoy taking note of how historical figures cross paths with one another. Secondly is how something in every administration can be applied to things that follow in the future.

Taylor was a career military man like a number of other presidents, Harrison, Eisenhower, Grant ( who served under his command) to name  a few. He  was very apolitical and  in fact, when nominated by thhe Whig party in 1848, had never even voted. He scarcely campaigned which turned out well, since he was somewhat intemperate with his  comments and a bit petulant at times.

Let me backtrack a bit because his actual political career lasted only about 2 years from nomination to his untimely death in 1850 , probably from gastroenteritis. He, according to Bauer, was somewhat of a mediocre general, given to a very conservative approach. He had some successes, most due to the efforts of his junior officers, one being his former son-in-law, Jefferson Davis. Nonetheless he moved up through the ranks and became a general and was nicknamed Old Rough and Ready, mainly for his very  plain manner of dress and  identification with his troops/

He seems to have been a compromise candidate to forestall Henry Clay but nonetheless was strongly supported by Lincoln and Robert E Lee.

He won a rather close election and took office as the real Washington outsider, Jimmy Carter to the contrary. He was somewhat unprepared for the office and during his brief tenure had  rather rocky relations with Congress. Recognize anyone in those statements, especially the unprepared part?

He was  somewhat limited intellectually and emotionally. To those of his day, he was an enigma and still remains so today, For me, it is one of those wat if situations. He was elected in large part because a 3rd part candidate ,former president Martin van Buren, siphoned off votes from  Secretary of War Lewis Cass. Had van Buren not run, Cass could very well have won even over a relatively popular general. So, Taylor joins that group who did not win a majority of the votes and   barely won the electoral vote.

And even his victory was scarcely enjoyed since he died at age 66, less than 18 months after taking office.

February 22, 2010 Posted by | History | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Location and Location

A couple of days ago, I shared a slightly tongue-in-cheek poem about our good friend Al ( protector of the environment) Gore. So, we and others wonder, where is the goracle these days? I assume most,if not all,  of the snow has left Washington and he was not  located in a makeshift igloo. So, where might he be?

Granted, this may violate top-secret government information guidelines, but I think I know where he is or at the least where he is headed. It would be the desolate regions  near the Pakistan/Afghanistan border to meet up with his compatriot and climate change brother in arms, Osama bin Laden.

Yep, bin Laden is now part of the Gore team. Some weeks ago bin Laden declared on  al-Jazeera that  he deplored climate change. He went on to condemn the United States and other developed countries for causing climate change, even including  an obligatory criticism of George Bush junior. He went on to compare United States politics to the Mafia (Chicago maybe?) and calling Americans the true terrorists.

What had to warm algore’s heart though was his assertion that his was a message to the whole world about those responsible for climate change and its repercussions. He added, “speaking about climate change is not an intellectual luxury-the phenomenon is an actual fact.” Who knows, Gore may have even helped him write the statement. Sounds Gore-like does it not?

February 21, 2010 Posted by | Culture, Media | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment