Guitarist James Edward “Spider” Wilson Dead At 79

A longtime fixture on the legendary Grand Ole Opry has passed away.  Guitarist James Edward “Spider” Wilson died Thursday at the age of 79.


It has been reported that Wilson was so enamored with country music as a young man that he used to stand outside an open window of the Ryman Auditorium and listen to Hank Williams perform.    There is clearly a nostalgic image for such a scene.  It was not long before Wilson began playing with Little Jimmy Dickens and his band in 1947, and toured with Ray Price before joining the house band at the Grand Ole Opry in 1953, before he was out of his teens.

One can just imagine all the stories that Wilson could tell about the early days of the Grand Ole Opry and the first big stars that made WSM radio the “The Air Castle Of The South”.  Wilson held that job at the Opry for more than five decades.   Over his lifetime he also was a popular studio musician and can lay claim to having worked with just about every major country sdinger in Nashville.

Sadly, however, his tenure at the Opry came to an end in November of 2006 when he quit the house band after 53 years, claiming that he was being excluded from the televised segments of the Opry broadcasts, which paid more than the portions that aired on the radio.

I have, from time to time, posted about how the Opry has turned its back on older artists and musicians at the Opry, and I have no doubt that Wilson has a legitimate compliant with Opry management.

Wilson is in a variety of film footage such as this one from the 1950’s featuring “Little” Jimmy Dickens.

Congressman Mark Pocan Should Skip Netanyahu’s Speech

Friday afternoon I called and spoke with an aide to Congressman Mark Pocan concerning Tuesday’s upcoming speech from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to a joint session of congress.   I requested that Pocan not sit in the chamber for the speech, and outlined in brief fashion why I think it best to be skipped.

I stated to the aide I was sure my call was on a topic that few had weighed in on, and even told him he did not have to say if others had called.  But all the same if he could I would be interested in knowing how much this topic had resonated with Pocan’s constituents.  “You would be surprised how many calls we have had on this matter,” was the response.  I was heartened to hear that news.

Why this matters so much for me, and why it prompted a call to the congressman’s office, has to do with really one solid foundation that needs to be preserved.   World leaders, such as President Obama and Netanyahu, should deal with each other, and must not use opposition political parties to gain traction.

There is nothing other than a huge nasty degree of partisanship about the invitation to Netanyahu to speak.  The House Republican leadership has decided to heavily politicize international affairs.  Trying in this way to undercut the prerogative of the executive branch to fashion deals and compromises–such as regarding nuclear talks with Iran–is unseemly and not something that should be countenanced by thoughtful members of congress.

There is already a most unhealthy level of partisanship in congress, to the point that brinksmanship is the way even one of the most important federal agencies is funded.  To expand partisanship to the degree of  allowing foreign heads of state to use the podium in the House must never be allowed to get a toehold.

I fully understand there are competing reasons as to why it would be ‘more acceptable’ if members of congress such as Pocan just sat and forced a polite smile through the speech.   But in so doing I think it sets a terrible acceptance for yet another slippery step in how partisanship is allowed to govern what in reality should be a very sober-minded and highly contemplative way of dealing with thorny international concerns.

I trust that my congressman gives this matter a great deal of thought, and then refuses to sit for it on Tuesday.

Caffeinated Politics Takes Another Step Into 21st Century

I was laughing with Aunt Lorene over lunch a couple weeks ago over the fact she knows how to text on her cell phone and except for long vacations James and I never even activate our phone.   I would not know how to even start sending a text or seeking or applying an app.  The running joke in our home is when a technology question needs an answer we go outside and wait for the first 10-year-old kid to pass on our sidewalk to get the answer.

I blog, create You Tube videos, convert VHS to DVD, and know how to set up quad speakers for the entertainment system.  So I am not living in the era of the Flintstones.  But having said that I also admit to having no idea how to make a cell phone or pads or such gadgets do all that I see others performing with their eyes closed.   I have no desire to be connected to a phone or pretend that every call is the most important of the day.  I still play phonograph albums, read print newspapers, listen to Wisconsin Public Radio on the AM band, and only have a land-line phone.

But today I did take a step forward that will make it easier for my readers to deal with content on this blog.  I have added an array of share buttons for a variety of social media which will appear on each post.    To be honest I had never even thought about these buttons as being important to this blog as I never interact with this type of thing in my own daily life.  But it has come to my attention they would be handy and useful for my readers, and for that reason they will now appear on this site.

While I have taken this step I want to be on record as still vowing to never get an electronic reader!

Thanks to all my readers visiting this site on the information highway, and have a nice weekend.

Why Was Boris Nemtsov Assassinated?

The number one international story on Friday was the assassination of Boris Nemtsov.  It is an event that will consume foreign policy thinkers and conspiracy theorists for a long time.     Many a good story starts with a murder in Moscow but this one with its scope and depth of intrigue and names associated with it promises to provide everyone with plenty to ponder and talk about.

There is little doubt the public role Nemtsov played in relation to the issues confronting Russia did not play a pivotal role in his death.  More precisely they were why he was targeted for death by those who feared him.

In June of 2013 Nemtsov gave an interview to The Atlantic that underscores for everyone to see (below) how he used his platform to focus attention on the graft in President Putin’s Russia.  His latest efforts to showcase the level of Russian involvement in Ukraine was more than Putin could abide.

The fact there is no real political opposition allowed to function at a governing level in Russia–and can never be allowed under Putin–makes this story all the more distressful.

You write in your report that so far, $50 billion has been spent on the Olympics, whereas originally, the application for Sochi had a figure of $12 billion. In your estimates, the expenditures have quadrupled because half of them went to corrupt pay-offs and kick-backs. But perhaps it’s because from the outset, not all the climactic conditions were taken into account in the cost?

It’s actually about another issue. Back at the stage of preparing the application and planning, it became clear that it would not be possible to build all the infrastructure in Krasnaya Polyana — the gorge is too narrow, and therefore it was decided to bring everything down to the Imeret Lowlands. In fact, this is a huge swamp in which is located the flood lands of the Mzymta River. There is a well-known fact that even back in the times of Stalin, they tried to measure the bottom of this swamp. It turned out that even at a depth of 170 meters, there were still no firm layers. That is, to construct some sort of buildings on this soil is simply madness, they will all slide. That’s the first point.

As for the appraisal of the costs, we saw how the expenditures in the Winter Olympics in other countries grew; everywhere the final total is approximately double the original stated sum. Let us suppose this is a universal principle, then the cost of the Olympics should be $24 billion [twice the originally cited amount of $12 billion], but in Russia it is $50 billion. That means it is logical to suppose that $26 billion are bribes and embezzlement. In order to confirm this supposition, we decided to calculate how much was spent on average per fan. That is a more objective indicator because stadiums are different everywhere, infrastructure as well, but expenses per fan are everywhere approximately at the same level. What happened in Russia? The average “price” per fan at an Olympics stadium throughout the world is $6,000, but at the Fisht Olympics Stadium in Sochi, it is $19,500 dollars, that is triple the cost!

Personal Security Detail Latest Bad Headline For Scott Walker

When it rains…….

As more than 300 unionized state troopers wait for their first pay raise in six years, ten Wisconsin State Patrol supervisors got a $4 per hour raise this week and they all have one thing in common – they serve on Governor Scott Walker’s (R-Wisconsin) personal security detail.

Over the course of a calendar year the raise will cost DOT an extra $83,200.  DOT officials estimate they are facing a budget shortfall of $680 million heading into the 2015-17 biennium.

The raise also comes on the heels of legislative leaders announcing they would not approve an average 17 percent raise for the 300-plus state troopers who are represented by the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association (WLEA).

“At a time with such fiscal difficulties in the State of Wisconsin, I just can’t support a raise that big,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told 27 News on February 17.

The raise for DPU members also comes just two weeks after Governor Walker announced a freeze on all merit pay raises for state employees.


A Memory Of Leonard Nimoy

My Tri-County School came to mind today upon hearing the news that Leonard Nimoy died. I loved to watch the re-runs of Star Trek and always found Spock to be a powerfully engaging character. Who could not love the ‘Vulcan nerve pinch?

I was friends with Martin Pionke who was always good-natured and Lord only knows why he let me try over and over the pinch on him when he least expected it during a period of our grade school years. It was just a crazy memory that came to mind upon hearing the news today.  I have long ago lost contact with Martin but perhaps tonight he too is thinking about sitting in the library of the old school in Hancock and being a part of the side-effects of watching too much Star Trek.

Note About Comments To This Blog

Today there has been a greater number of hits to this blog than normal, many of them hitting my post about Scott Walker’s son.   While I love political debate and welcome feedback–pro or con–on this or any other topic there is one ground rule readers who wish to comment must follow.

If you write something that would not make the pages of a newspaper’s Op-Ed pages because of the cursing or just raunchy low-life style of writing you also will not get it posted on Caffeinated Politics.  This has been the foundation from the start of this blog.

I understand that conservatives feel they have nowhere to run where there are not awful headlines to greet them.  But it does not make their case any better when they write like a pre-pubescent sixth grader on a snit with scatological issues.

It may make the writer feel good for a moment, but unless it is written like an adult there is no way such comments appear on this blog.

Enough said.

Why a Rapprochement With Iran Could Serve Many Interests

Given the chaos and continuing upheaval in the Middle East it seems we all should strive to better understand the various forces at play in that region.  Over time I have tried to present various articles aimed at addressing how to stop ISIS, deal with Israel, and now comes the must read from Robert Kaplan regarding how we might address our relationship with Iran.  None of what these articles present holds the full approach that might best work to meet international objectives.  But reading from a broad perspective of  divergent views will allow us to better understand what world leaders are contemplating when it comes to Middle East policy.

In part, here is what Kaplan writes.

The practical approach to Islamist terrorism is not always to fight terrorists everywhere, but to play Shiites against Sunnis and vice versa, depending upon the circumstances. By warming up to Iran, we would not be siding with the Shiites against the Sunnis per se, but rather manipulating both sides more effectively than we have in the past. Nor should ending our belligerence toward Shia Iran mean deserting our Sunni allies in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Persian Gulf, and elsewhere. We must go to great lengths to reassure them, in fact. I am not endorsing a flip-flop—an exchange of one alliance for another. Handled properly, a détente with Iran need not jeopardize our relationships with Sunni nations. It could, however, motivate them to be more honest allies than before. For decades, the Sunni dictatorships in Egypt and Saudi Arabia took their military alliances with the United States for granted, even as they fostered the hateful climate that produced the 9/11 terrorists. As for the Sunni jihadists themselves, they are already our committed enemies. We must continue to deal with them through a combination of military strikes, support for Sunni moderates (where they can be found), and creative diplomacy (of the sort that might be exemplified by a rapprochement with Iran).

The Levant will likely be in a state of violent and chaotic conflict for decades, much as Afghanistan has been since the late 1970s. The more the United States and Iran coordinate with each other, the less chance there is that America will have to put additional boots on the ground in the Middle East. If the United States is serious about the pivot to Asia, its objective should be to get regional powers, including Iran, to carry the burden of stabilizing Syria and Iraq.

There is more. A future, relatively congenial Iran might be less inclined to make trouble through its Hezbollah and Hamas allies in southern Lebanon and Gaza. It might help secure al-Qaeda-infected Yemen, via Iranian-backed Houthi tribesmen (the Houthi are Zaidi Shiites who have been overrunning Yemeni territory). It could even counteract future Chinese influence in the Persian Gulf: Already, Iran and India have joined forces to develop the Arabian Sea port of Chabahar in Iranian Baluchistan. This port could one day compete against the nearby port of Gwadar, which China and Pakistan are working jointly to further develop. An American-Iranian understanding could also ensure the overall security of the Gulf sheikhdoms—an Iran in dialogue with America is an Iran less likely to be militarily aggressive toward its neighbors. And a more friendly Iran might conceivably help balance against Russia’s influence in the Transcaucasus, where Vladimir Putin has made a satellite out of Armenia, put troops near a weakened Georgia, and pressured energy-rich Azerbaijan into a closer relationship.

While the United States could use Iran for all of the above, Iran could use the United States, ironically, to give its regime legitimacy, thereby opening the floodgates of foreign investment and rescuing the Iranian economy. The mullahs’ deepest fear is that they will end up like the shah—toppled by a popular upheaval that is, in the main, economically driven. Of course, such an economic opening runs the risk of further emboldening hard-line elements in Iran, but over time it is more likely to move the country in a liberal direction.