Archive for June, 2010

Letter From New York June 27, 2010

June 27, 2010

Or, as it seems to me…

The huzz-a-buzz this past week has been almost all about the sacking of General Stanley McChrystal, who, if you somehow have missed this, said (as did a number of his staff) many uncomplimentary things about White House staff and some diplomats and said them while a reporter for Rolling Stone Magazine was taking notes – a supremely stupid thing for a very, very smart man to do. He was summoned back to Washington, arriving with his resignation in his pocket, which was accepted. He was replaced by David Petraeus; arguably the most respected military man in the country right now.

To my shock, an article in the New York Post actually praised the President for doing this. Now, for anyone who doesn’t know the New York Post, it is owned by News Corp which is run by Rupert Murdoch and is generally very, very, very critical of President Obama. As far as the Post is generally concerned, the President can’t sneeze correctly.

It has been the biggest military/civilian clash since Harry Truman sacked General MacArthur during the Korean War [which, by the way, started 60 years ago this past week] for criticizing the President to Congress. I kept wondering what McChrystal had been thinking when he allowed this to happen. From what I have read about the man, he is very smart, very tough, a very good commander – but this wasn’t a smart thing to do and, unfortunately, Obama felt he had no choice but to fire the General. What the pundits have said is that replacing McChrystal with Petraeus was brilliant and that out of this sad mess Obama has been looking more like a Commander in Chief than before – hence at least some praise from The New York Post.

While this was playing out, the Gulf Oil Spill continued to gush. Obama spoke from the Oval Office and at the end of his speech referenced the Blessing of the Fleet that happens in the Gulf Coast, praying that God will protect the fisherman about to embark. It was held again this year, not so long ago. Obama talked a bit about prayer at the end of his speech and the way it has been going, prayer may be the best bet we’ve got. It seems sometimes that it will take a miracle of some kind to turn this around.

I’ve been told by friends in religious occupations that some have seen the Gulf Coast Spill as the harbinger of the End Times. Though I think that any event can be and has been construed as a harbinger of The End Times. Seems to me that we have been in The End Times according to someone almost since the moment Christ ascended into heaven.

Though not really religious I do pray in my own ways and will extend the Gulf Coast and the eco-disaster there to the things I sent heavenward to my personal Higher Power. I will remember it more when I pause and speak to God. We might all do well to do that if we’re so inclined…

If there are religious/spiritual people at Google, I am sure they are sending their thanks up to heaven as a Judge in New York dismissed the billion dollar lawsuit that Viacom had filed against You Tube, a Google company, for posting hundreds of thousands of copyrighted clips. The Judge declared Google/You Tube covered by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and therefore not at fault. Now if you don’t know what the DMCA is all about basically, as I understand it, it says that if you’re a website like You Tube and someone posts copyrighted material to your site, you’re not liable for copyright infringement if you take it down as soon as you are alerted to it. Which the judge decided Google/You Tube had done and so it was in the clear. Viacom has announced it will appeal. However the Judge’s decision is powerfully important and is cause for great celebration in Googledom. As I said, I’m sure that those who pray are saying thank you to their Higher Power.

Letter From New York June 20, 2010

June 20, 2010

Or, as it seems to me…

As I worked through things at the office on Friday, I saw online that Tony Hayward, CEO of BP, had been removed from the frontline of dealing with the oil spill. His gaffes finally caught up with him. In front of Congress on Thursday he was accused of not taking responsibility and evading questions. He didn’t play well, not in Congress and apparently not in his own company and now the odds makers are taking bets on how long he will survive at BP.

The oil is, of course, still gushing and, according to revised estimates, gushing at rates far greater than previously estimated, a rate that keeps going up and up, discouragingly so, day after day, week after week.

There is the Gulf Oil disaster and new questions about our direction in Afghanistan even as reports are circulated about the potential mineral wealth there; some question the timing of this announcement since there has been knowledge of these deposits all the way back to the time when the Soviets were attempting to subdue the country.

An American teenager was attempting to be the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe ran into trouble in the Indian Ocean and had to be rescued. Her parents took a beating in the press for letting her pursue this dream – but the real problem may have been they had been attempting to sell a television program based on her quest. It didn’t play well.

The Israelis are still sorting the fallout from their actions stopping a Turkish flotilla that wanted to break the blockade of Gaza. There is talk of lightening the blockade as it is not playing as well as it had been.

The World Cup is playing out and Americans are paying more attention to it than ever before, particularly after the lucky tie of the US vs. Britain. Had lots of folks in my office excited. In more places than ever before, the World Cup is on the television, background in some bars and restaurants, catering to the growing numbers invested in the sport. It is playing well.

These are world events, playing out on the world stage, the affairs that shape the headlines and the national discourse. But in my life, and in the lives of all of us, these are the backdrop to our lives, to getting up in the morning, having coffee, plotting the day and then reacting to the things that happen to us, making sense of the “ordinary” developments we face in our own lives – the tensions in the office, the loss of those we know and love when they pass, the pressure of being in Place A at Time B for a meeting about C.

All of that hit me on Thursday when I learned that Andy Doyle, my sister-in-law’s brother, whom I have known since I was twelve, about my age, lost his fight to a rare brain ailment. He was a good kind man, a former priest, who came to celebrate Thanksgiving with me a few years ago, full of wry jokes and witticisms and intelligent conversation. His passing will not be splashed on front pages and, like most of us, will not effect world events but for those of us who knew and loved him he will be missed and a hole has opened in our worlds. The great events play out as backdrop to our ordinary lives, “small” according to the Chairman of BP, but central to our lives and more important immediately to our lives than the faraway front-page headline events. It is how it plays in real time, in real life.

And playing out in real time today, Sunday, is Father’s Day – the day when families honor the central man in their lives, the man who helped conceive them and who nurtured them [it is hoped]. For those whose fathers have gone, like mine, it is a time to recall, remember, re-evaluate perhaps, understanding that central character through more experienced eyes. It is a day to celebrate and to treasure. It is a time to play well with those we love. Happy Father’s Day.

Letter From New York June 9, 2010

June 10, 2010

Or, as it seems to me

It’s been an enormously busy week with lots of pressures from the things I am working on – the mobile channel, the website rebuild, other client demands. My mind has been cluttered and I found myself at 5:15 this morning staring at my coffee maker having an intense conversation with myself about all the things needing to be done – and I doubt that is an unusual situation for many, if not most, Americans – that early, early morning internal conversation about what was ahead during the day.

However, when things grow quieter in my brain, I think about the variety of things that are happening outside of my particular universe.

I don’t follow baseball. I don’t follow any sport at all. But I was struck this past week by the story of the umpire who made the horrifically bad call that cost a player named Gallaraga a perfect game. Jim Joyce was the umpire who made the call, astoundingly bad, he admitted when he saw the replay. Joyce stood up, like a man, and apologized to Gallaraga. And what was even more astounding was that Gallaraga accepted the apology and the two of them stood together on the field and were cheered by the crowds for having acted like – good men. Instead of disintegrating into invective, which would have been easy in this fraught situation, two men accepted the flaws of the human condition and celebrated it in the best possible way. Bravo!

Down in the gulf, the oil kept spilling, if somewhat tempered by a containment dome placed on the wellhead. Better but still not good. I have been watching this story as carefully as I can. I have been astounded by the number of people on the street who have been talking about it and part of the reason there has been so much talk is because people have been riveted by the photographs of AP shooter Charlie Reidel. His photos of sludge-covered pelicans captured the horror of the oil spill in a way that nothing else quite has – it made this event palpably real. Spread across television networks and newspapers around the world the photos of Charlie Reidel proved a picture is worth a thousand words. BP is staging a $50 million advertising and public relations campaign but the money and the effort may be no match for these pictures. [See:

Long ago I became a subscriber to the Maritime Executive Newsletter. I did it because they were following the pirate situation off the Horn of Africa and I thought there was a really good story there. Now they are providing some excellent analysis of the oil spill and I find their maritime perspective interesting.

Almost a century ago, the great shipping lines that plied the North Atlantic route between the US and Britain began to build really big ships. However, the laws that governed them did not keep up with the technology and the ravenous need of the companies to serve the demand for berths on the North Atlantic. Hence, when the White Star Line began building a trio of ships, the largest in the world, they were able to legally outfit them without enough lifeboats for everyone on board and that didn’t change until Titanic, the second of that trio of ships, struck an iceberg and went down with a horrific loss of life – then the laws were changed. The Maritime Executive Newsletter made a parallel to those events with this oil spill. No one was prepared for the worst possible case of Titanic hitting that iceberg and sinking and no one was prepared for the worst possible case of this oil spill. We will be playing technological and legal catch up for oilrigs just as the British Parliament and Congress did for lifeboats after the sinking of Titanic.

Letter From New York May 31, 2010

June 1, 2010

Or, as it seems to me…

Over the Memorial Day weekend my brother Joe and his friend Deb came to visit me in the city and we did everything we could to make it a New York weekend. We wandered the city, did a rickshaw ride through Central Park, went to see Jersey Boys on Broadway, went to very good restaurants, Redeye Grill and Capsouto Freres and Café du Soleil. We walked the streets, took taxis here and there and soaked in the beautiful weather.

It was hard not to be thinking of the military this weekend, what with it being Memorial Day and it also being Fleet Week and the city full of sailors and Marines, all marching through the town in crisp uniforms, unfailingly polite and looking oh so young while some, for reasons I can only imagine, also seemed so old, looks in their faces that spoke of what they had seen. One such young man was on the train with me on Thursday morning coming up from Washington, D.C. He was a Marine, carrying his kit with him, a face both impossibly young and impossibly old, eyes that burned, making me wonder what they had witnessed. It was a face that marked itself into my mind and will be with me for a long, long, long time.

We also walked around the area near Ground Zero, seeing the hole from which, slowly, is arising the new World Trade Center. We passed a listing of those who had died there, the first name, whose last name started with a double “a” was actually the son of a friend of my brother’s, a moment that made 9/11 even more real than it already was. We walked up Broadway and stopped at St. Paul’s Chapel, mere steps really from Ground Zero. On that day everything around it was destroyed but it endured. George Washington worshiped there during the months that New York was the nation’s capital. Since 9/11 it has become a shrine to that time, that moment in history. In the days and months following 9/11 it became a place of refuge for those who were working in “the pit.” Men and women would work, stagger to St. Paul’s and sleep in the pews or on the cots that were around the perimeter, each of which was outfitted with a stuffed animal. Food was served, souls were touched, bodies were cared for and human beings met human beings, anchoring the workers in the goodness of the human spirit as they were fresh from working in a place that spoke to the evil that men can do to one another.

It was difficult for me. When Deb asked me a question about where I was, what happened to me that day I found myself choking back tears. It comes that way sometimes – I can speak of 9/11 dispassionately and other times I can’t. I am there, I am back again in all the trauma of that day and the days that followed. I can feel the shudder of the building I was living in that was the result of the impact of the first plane hitting the first building. I can stand again at West Broadway and Spring Street and see the flames from the first hit tower. I am still somewhere in my life waiting for my friend of the time Cheryl to arrive, having walked up from near Ground Zero. I am still in the smoked filled, acrid smelling streets, filled with crowds of refugees and crying, dust covered men and women walking traumatically north.

I cannot get away from all of that day. It lives within my soul. Walking with Joe and Deb through that space brought it back, painfully. And yet it was good that I remembered. It reminded me that Memorial Day was about remembering and I was remembering this Memorial Day weekend, remembering 9/11, remembering that all those young Marines and sailors were serving us in the wars that resulted from that day, remembering that were other wars that have been fought and men and women who had sacrificed in those times.