Wednesday, October 29

Colliding Currents

Hatteras Island Disconnect Posted by HelloVirginia Beach in the summer is full of traffic and tourism; local surf and turf invaded by binoculars and bad bathing suits. Relatives from the Midwest would comment on how lucky we were to live so close to the beach, right before they would make reservations to stay in our home for a week in August. If it was luck that I lived close to the shore, the luck became far less apparent to me as I gave up my bedroom to Aunts and Uncles, cousins and old family friends each summer. A week of seeing the same overpriced attractions and turning their milky white Michigan complexions to a painful pink was considered pleasure in paradise to the camera wielding home invaders. They would finally stop coming and going in late August and I would migrate from the crumb filled couch back to my bedroom. The washing machine would rumble for the next 3 days trying to rid my linens of the oily aroma of Coppertone SPF30. I live in Virginia Beach, but it really belongs to those who suffer the landlocked blues for nine months and then come here seeking the salty sea air to clear their sinuses of the acid rain reality of a Midwestern existence.

I’m not really much different I suppose. Hatteras Island always provided me with that escape and solitude, with 50 miles of beach stretching from Oregon Inlet in the north to Hatteras Inlet in the south. Beautifully undeveloped land, 85 percent of this slender barrier island is unadulterated federal property full of rugged dunes, wide beaches and a brackish sound of wetlands; forever protected from development by Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. There really wasn’t anyone to call for reservations and I never forced an otherwise comfortable bedroom dweller to the uneasy slumber of the family room couch. Mother Nature always had plenty of room on her earthen beds, arranged under a southern sky, softened by sand that was freshly spread by an intoxicating Outer Banks breeze.

My father introduced me to Hatteras Island in the late seventies. The first excursion was full of discovery. We traveled the weaving, sand dusted narrow road through the wildlife refuge in our battered and rusty 1969 Jeepster Commando and scaled the winding stairs of the storied lighthouse. I ran frantically from the pursuing foamy wake that seemed a willing participant in a child’s game of wet feet and sand filled toes. I built royal castles of sand while my father cast his homemade “Hatteras Heaver” over the breaking waves of the Atlantic, hoping to wrestle another bluefish onto the beach. The beach where I would sleep at night, exhausted from the relentless pursuit of the tide. Most fascinating to me about that first adventure to the island was something my father had shown me, the actual point of land which juts into the Atlantic at Cape Hatteras, known locally as Cape Point. We stood there together and spoke of the two currents that come together there: the Labrador Current, which flows north to south, and the mighty Gulf Stream, which runs south to north. My eyes followed his huge arm to the tip of his index finger and watched as he explained that the two currents collide just a few miles off Cape Point at the Diamond Shoals. The currents will sometimes form a gentle mix; but sometimes they come together with such force that they throw fish and shells far into the air, sink ships, and flood the land.

It is 30 years later, and I can’t be sure if I really saw it, but my memory fills my mind's eye with a picture of two waves charging at one another. I stood in total awe beneath my father’s outstretched arm, and watched as the waves crashed into each other, spewing salty foam high into the air. It seemed so vivid at the time that it never really escaped me. I would return to Hatteras Island countless times with family and friends, taking in more and more of what nature had to offer, but those two colliding waves always created the backdrop for everything I saw. I fished with my father and vacationed with relatives; even took a stab at becoming the next local surfer that people crowded the beaches to watch. I rarely caught a fish and was never really comfortable looking in at the beach as I rushed in on a rolling wave. Fishing and surfing were simply reasons to put myself on that sandy point, standing under a father’s arm, anxiously awaiting the next confrontation of the currents.

I was young then and have never again heard anyone tell the story of the colliding currents. I thought I needed those “excuses” to be there, in case it was my imagination that spewed the salty foam above my head. I’m older now and know better. I don’t know that what I saw was real, but I do know that it’s possible.

Hurricane Isabel came ashore little more than a month ago, September 18, 2003. Like many others, I was prepared. My family braced for the worst and wondered how our lives might be different after she was gone. For many, things were different, and for a time I felt very lucky as we didn’t lose power, didn’t have debris strewn about our yard, and none of our loved ones were injured or taken from us. I felt unaffected by such a huge and dangerous storm. But as the news of devastation up and down the east coast started to emerge, I realized I may have been affected after all. Hurricane Isabel ripped through Hatteras Village and opened a 1700-foot gap between Hatteras Village and Frisco. On October 24th, the local newspaper displayed a view of Hatteras Island on the front page that was difficult to look at. The beautiful land that provided me with a lifelong memory of escape and solitude had been ripped to pieces by a devastating storm surge. I went on to read the article that accompanied the photo and realized I probably shouldn’t panic. In just one week of dredging, about half of what was lost had already been replaced. By mid-November, engineers expect the inlet to be filled with sand again, and the state will then begin rebuilding the washed-out road that provided access to the southern tip of the island. But I realized I shouldn’t panic because I can always just close my eyes and I’m once again a small boy on the tip of a sandy beach, watching from beneath my father’s outstretched arm as the currents collide before me.

Road to Hatteras Island;Posted by Hello

Sunday, October 19

Congress OKs $87 billion

"The Senate joined the House in passing legislation Friday to grant President Bush's request for $87 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan... Differing versions set up House-Senate showdown over whether aid to Iraq should be loan or grant."

The so-called "showdown" should be a debate about whether we should charge minimal interest or really sock-it to 'em.

Assuming we absolutely have to spend this money in Iraq, shouldn't we at least incorporate a little common sense? I get furious watching our government as it considers paying $9 million for the creation of zip codes in Iraq. Have you heard about this? Could it possibly cost $9 million to set up a zip code system? I'm unemployed. Please give me this job. I will do it for half of that and still donate a million to my favorite charity and send all five of my kids to college.

Does anyone see this as anything less than absurd? It's as absurd as spending $33 million on a promotional campaign to educate people on how to use the new $20 bill, urging people to take the new money seriously. I think the assumption that it will take millions of dollars to keep the general public capable of spending a $20 bill because it went through a few color changes and enhancements is both offensive and irresponsible.

Kurtis D. Reiner
Absolutely No Political Party Affiliation

Saturday, October 18

"What if?"

While little more than 1 in 5 Vice Presidents ever “acted as President” during their term, it would seem that today’s terror climate compels us to do the unbearable…

We must explore a couple of “what if” questions.

A deep intellectual process or a statistical, scientific method is rarely necessary; I’m typically able to zero in on a contender for President with relative ease. My Presidential candidate, in most elections, is the candidate I view as the least likely to affect me, in a negative, personal, familial manner. Massive media coverage on several candidates provides me the information I need to make a selection; though coverage of less familiar candidates with less money but great ideas really must start getting more media time. It sounds selfish; but resounding through my ears is a man’s voice (my father), “You better vote, it’s your right!” Forget the fact that because it’s my right, “you better vote” is an instruction that lacks any forethought or common sense. Voting for a candidate that you honestly do not want as your President is wrong.

The first “what if”
Will you be able to live with yourself the day a tragedy strikes, possibly caused by a President that you cast a vote for, against your own, rightful wishes? What if it were spun in your head in such a way that you ultimately blamed yourself; because you cast your ballot? If we need to add the “none of the above” option to the ballot to counter the “you must participate to make a difference” argument, then let us make it so. People that insist you are of lesser character for not voting, are people who simply want you to share their vision of America, without fully and fairly considering yours. I’m not suggesting we stop voting, only that we stop voting for candidates we don’t agree with. Can it really be, that for the most part, the entire country is expected to consist of only two visions of what this country is to become? Is it reasonable to expect everyone to betray many of their own beliefs and opinions, because they contradict the two available political choices? I just can’t believe America should consist solely of a right and a left. Your vote must be earned. Honestly and deservingly by a candidate, who we must remember, is never harmed by your vote; though with it, can certainly bring you harm.

The first “what if?” was necessary because I didn’t want to incite the masses to rise up and begin voting in numbers like we’ve never witnessed; until I at least made a small attempt to heighten the sense of responsibility and pure ownership these masses have of their vote.

The second “what if”

What if the homeland just isn’t secure enough and terrorists are able to force us into a circumstance that requires the Vice President to be the “acting President of the United States”? Would the planes still have managed to penetrate the towers of New York City on September 11th if George W. Bush had been inside one of them delivering a speech that day? While many may disagree with me, something tells me it was very possible. Maybe not today, but on September 11th, 2001, America possessed a sort of naiveté that left everyone vulnerable. Isn’t the very existence of the color coded threat level system evidence enough to know that stating, “Only 9 of the first 46 Vice Presidents ever had to act as President”, is to pretend that we don’t face far greater dangers than that of our forefathers. Terrorists, as well as other threats to our security and freedom, have become variables that force us to consider possibilities that historical data can’t always provide.

With these possibilities in mind, consider what you know about Vice Presidential candidates for the 2004 election. The closest thing to fact that I can offer is that if George remains in office, we probably keep Dick. Beyond Dick, I can only offer speculation. The CNN’s and MSNBC’s will occasionally ask those Presidential candidates who are dropping out of the race or have extremely low poll numbers, “Would you accept an offer to be the running-mate of another candidate?”. From this occasional query we’ve been able to establish just one thing as a certainty, that everyone is non-committal. Even as a pre-candidate, General Wesley Clark would only insist that his focus for now was solely on his decision to run for President. He never insisted he would not consider a running-mate offer in the event he didn’t survive a Presidential race.

We have absolutely no information regarding any Vice Presidential candidate we will potentially put in the alternate seat of our government. We are faced with the increased potential of our Vice President becoming our President prematurely, yet the question is never asked; “Mr. Candidate, with whom will you be entrusting the security and future of America, in the event some unthinkable circumstance renders you unable to perform your duties?” I appeal to the media to simply pose the question and attempt to cover another element of the Presidential election. I am not attempting to imply that this is a topic of greater importance; only that it is of importance. I would find it very troubling if we were to find ourselves guilty of some tragic error in judgment that was the result of an insufficient amount of information. Should this be possible in the “information age”?

My intention is not to criticize anyone or anything; this is just a simple request for more information. This is a request for important information that we as a people require to make safe and informed decisions; important information that we deserve, enabling us to participate in the process in good conscience. While my request is directed to the media for this additional information we need, the onus is really on us, the citizens of America, to force a needed change in what’s being served up daily on the cables and satellite dishes, internet connections and radio antennas all across the country. This onus is what compelled me to write this article. We apparently need to alert the media to some of the other topics that are important and necessary. The topic of potential 2004 Vice Presidential candidates is just one of many unasked questions and unexplored topics of great importance.

I am now “participating in the process” by writing this article and future articles. I urge others to jump in and let their opinions and views be known. Let us change the media’s idea of what it is we want, to what we really do want. Start using your email clients and telephones today and urge the media to cover all of the topics that are important. We need to arm ourselves with information and start using our vote to make a difference.

Kurtis D. Reiner
Absolutely No Political Party Affiliation