Monthly Archives: November 2014

Someone is watching, listening

Someone once offered some advice that went something like this: “If you don’t want your grandmother to read it on the front page of tomorrow’s paper, don’t say it.”

That could be expanded these days to, “If you don’t want your grandmother to read it on the front page of tomorrow’s paper or potentially everyone with a computer read it on Facebook or see it on YouTube, don’t say it, write it or do it.”

That’s because in this age of instant communications and social media, someone or some device is generally near you, ready to capture your every written or spoken word and all of your actions.

Broadcasters and public figures, like politicians, have always been warned to treat microphones as if they are live because they could be. But now all of us — not just broadcasters and public figures — are at the mercy of not just open microphones but surveillance cameras, miniature audio recorders and cell phones that record sound, take photos and make videos.

Drones equipped with video cameras can peer into your window and watch you get dressed or hover over your backyard and watch you sunbathe.

Some people have learned about the lack of privacy the hard way.

They have been caught making private remarks to individuals or small groups that ended up going public and came back to haunt them.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley of Iowa made some remarks to a group of lawyers at a Texas fundraiser that no doubt cost him some votes in his unsuccessful bid for a U.S. Senate seat.

Braley, a lawyer, was caught in a videotape posted online disparaging Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who is a farmer.

“If you help me win this race, you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice — someone who’s been literally fighting tort reform for 30 years in a visible and public way — on the Senate Judiciary (Committee),” Braley told the group. “Or you might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary. Because if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be the next chair of the Senate Judiciary.”

Braley later apologized to Grassley, but the damage was done.

Another person whose comments have recently caused controversy is MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, described by many as an architect of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and Romneycare in Massachusetts before that.

In a 2013 video Gruber said of Obamacare, “If you have a law that makes explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it wouldn’t have passed. Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage and, basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever. But basically that was really critical to getting the thing to pass.”

Gruber has apologized on MSNBC for what he calls his “off-the-cuff” remarks.

On the local level, a staff member of Illinois U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos resigned in October for saying that constituents in some parts of Rockford spend more time in jail than in church.

District director Heidi Schultz quit after Bobby Schilling, who later lost to Bustos in the November general election, released an audio recording of Schultz making the comments to a constituent last winter.

Schultz said she did not know she was being recorded. Bustos called the comments “unacceptable on every front.”

Yes, someone’s listening, and someone’s watching. We worry about Big Brother — the government — keeping track of us. But maybe we should worry more about being studied by others like ourselves.

Copyright 2014 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.This piece ran as a column in “The North Scott Press,” Eldridge, Iowa.

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Posted by on November 26, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Have some wine after dinner in Balltown

P1000609P1000606P1000607P1000608A good way to spend a few minutes after your delicious meal at Breitbach’s Country Dining in tiny Balltown, Iowa, is a visit to the Breitbach family’s Wine Shed, located adjacent to the restaurant in one of Iowa’s most picturesque towns.

It offers a variety of wine, including free tasting; some antiques and collectibles; and T-shirts to purchase. An affable retired farmer is the host.

After tasting several of their wines, we bought a bottle of Cabin Fever, a sweet white table wine, for about $13. It is bottled by Promisedland Winery in Guttenberg, Iowa.

The Wine Shed is open daily except for Mondays during the spring, summer and fall through Thanksgiving, when it closes for the winter. Call the restaurant at 563-552-2220 for the store hours or other information.

Copyright 2014 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

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Posted by on November 6, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Everyone could use a little Sunshine in January

sunshine ramseyEveryone could use a little sunshine in January. And you’ll find lots of it at Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse in Rock Island.

Walcott-area native Sunshine (Woolison) Ramsey returns with another cabaret-style show, “A Night of Sunshine,” on Saturday, Jan. 3, and Friday, Jan. 9.

In 2010, Circa ’21 producer Denny Hitchcock came up with the idea for a show headlined by Sunshine and featuring a live band and a variety of music. His idea was no surprise to anyone who has heard Sunshine’s powerful pipes. She can really belt out a song.

“A Night of Sunshine” has been a hit from the beginning. This is the second year for two performances of it. The second performance was added because prior years’ shows were sellouts.

Doors open at 6 both nights, and the music begins at 7. Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door. They sell quickly. Phone (309) 786-7733, extension 2, for reservations.

Sandwiches and appetizers will be available for purchase, as will drinks from Circa’s bar.

Sunshine has been a member of Circa’s singing wait staff, known as the Bootleggers, since May of 2002. In addition to waiting tables, the Bootleggers perform a musical pre-show prior to each play performance.

Sunshine is no stranger to performing. Her resume includes recording songs in Nashville, and she has appeared on stage in more than half a dozen Circa productions.

By all rights, Sunshine and her sultry singing voice should be cranking out songs somewhere on tour or recording them in Nashville.

But as I wrote in 2010 prior to the first “A Night of Sunshine,” Nashville’s loss is the Quad-Cities’ gain.


I’ll admit it – my hearing isn’t what it used to be.

That was evident recently when I was having breakfast with a group of fellow broadcast media retirees. One woman in the group was talking about her pet dog. She said that particular breed, a Basenji, doesn’t bark.

I misunderstood what she said.

“Did you say your dog doesn’t fart?” I asked in all seriousness.

The group erupted in laughter.

Copyright 2014 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This ran as a column in The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

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Posted by on November 6, 2014 in Uncategorized


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