Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category

Letter From Claverack 10 09 2017 My country ’tis of thee…

October 9, 2017

IMG_2365

There are times when even the quiet beauty of the cottage is not enough to soothe the soul; this has been one of those times.  Since the shootings in Las Vegas, I have found little solace in anything, except, perhaps, sleep.

Sunday, Mother Eileen captured the anguish, pain and despair I feel in her sermon.  After the Prayers of the People, the bell tolled once for each person killed in Las Vegas.  The service closed with “My Country Tis of Thee.”

My head bowed, I fought back tears.

There has been Las Vegas.  Jeff Sessions is claiming that bans on discrimination don’t cover transgender people.  The Trump Administration is rolling back rules that help women have birth control as part of their medical coverage.

The United States joined Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China and a few other repressive regimes in refusing to declare it immoral to execute people for being gay.

What?

As the bell was tolling [and it tolls for thee], I thought of a long ago, rainy, cold November afternoon and looked at my mother and said: what kind of country are we?  It was the afternoon of the day Kennedy had been killed and that moment is etched in my brain, looking out the front windows at a sad world and wondering just what kind of country would kill someone who seemed to be having so much fun and was doing good things?

There was nothing my mother could say.  To this day, I remember the look she gave me, wanting to have an answer and having none.  The silence still rings in my ears all these years later as does the memory of the slick, wet street, a yellow and red city bus moving slowly down the street.

Last night there was another torch lit march in Charlottesville, VA.  A return of Richard Spencer and his white supremacists.  Listen to their chants: “The South will rise again. Russia is our friend. The South will rise again. Woo-hoo! Wooo.” [Washington Post, October 7, 2017]

Russia is our friend?  The South will rise again?  Russia is not my friend and the South envisioned by these chaps is not a South in which I would be comfortable.  It’s one in which I think I might be afraid for my life.

Today is Columbus Day, the day everyone makes noise about old Christopher Columbus and his “discovery” of America.  Personally, I suspect it was the Vikings a few centuries earlier but they don’t get credit [maybe I think that because my mother’s family were Swedish].  However, as we have discovered Christopher Columbus was brave and not a model of morality in the way he treated native Americans.  White people, in general, have not been very kind to native Americans.

Thirty years ago, my friend Ann Frisbee Naymie and I had a conversation about this and she just said to me:  bad karma for what we did.

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who has announced he is not seeking reelection, electrified the world yesterday with a tweet saying the White House was an adult care center and someone had missed their shift.  Really?  A Republican lawmaker is talking about a Republican President in this way?  Wowza!  You go, Corker.  And I agree with you that Trump runs the White House like it’s an episode of the President and, like you, I think it is possible Donald Trump could stumble us into a nuclear war before he realized what he’d done.

Two hospitals have been evacuated in California and at least 50 structures destroyed in fires that are causing people to flee from Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties while in southern California fires are raging in Orange County, south of Los Angeles.

The Four Horseman are riding.

Thank you, Mother Eileen, for giving shape to the inchoate agony I was experiencing when I walked into church yesterday. Thank you for ringing the bell for the deaths in Las Vegas.  Thank you for asking the painful questions we all should be asking ourselves.  What kind of country are we?  What kind of country do we want to be?

 

 

 

Letter from Claverack 08 02 2017 Worn down but not out…

August 2, 2017

The last several days, my deck has been my living room, my office and my dining room.  It’s here I have spent the daylight hours. As I type now, a storm threatens with distant thunderclaps.

IMG_2062

The water in the creek is so clear I can see stones that line its bottom.  The day is cooling as I sit here; having been warm and humid.

On August 8th, I am departing Hudson and journeying by train to Minneapolis for a reunion of old friends.  Whenever I tell people I am making a trip by train they ask me if I am afraid to fly?  No, says the man who, for a time in his life, flew at least a hundred thousand miles a year.

Trains are interesting because there is a sense of a journey when taking them.  It’s not a magic carpet ride from place to place [though these days rarely is flying a magic carpet ride].  It is a journey, as you pass places and towns, sit for meals, read, look up and see surprising things and meet surprising people.  You have an incredible sense of going from place to place and I love it.

It will give me a chance to think, contemplate, speculate, dream, postulate and hopefully not pontificate.

And then, when I am ready, I will fly home from Minneapolis.  My trip is a bit open ended, a reflection of the joys of my life right now.

While the water in the creek is clear, so very little else is clear.We have lived through the extraordinary and extraordinarily short tenure of the foul-mouthed Anthony Scaramucci as White House Communications Director.  In that brief time, he missed the birth of his son and was served with divorce papers by his wife.

He texted his congratulations to her on the birth of their son.  Might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back…

Seth Rich was a young man working for the DNC.  He was murdered.  Fox News suggested he was murdered because he had leaked emails from the DNC.  A lawsuit has been filed by a Fox contributor that claims Fox colluded with the White House on the story that Mr. Rich was the leaker when he was not.

How convoluted this all is.

Politics has always been a dirty business and it seems dirtier than ever right now. Or, at least in my memory.

As “any father would,” Donald Trump helped craft the statement Donald Trump, Jr. made about his meeting with some Russians, who promised him dirt on Hillary.  That’s the story from the White House. Other, less kind versions, have him dictating the statement his son gave.

It’s another JDLR – just doesn’t look right.

After six months, I am worn out.

Really, I am. Every day when I wake up, I wonder what new roil I am going to encounter in the news.  There is no shortage of them.

General John Kelly has been named Chief of Staff at the White House.  Is there a more painful job in the world right now?  I mean, really!?  Kelly kicked Scaramucci’s butt out which shows he is exercising control and has demanded the President pay attention.

Good luck with that.   Trump’s tweets early this morning goaded his new Chief of Staff about not promoting the stock market heights it has achieved may indicate his attention span lasted the night.  It’s not your Chief of Staff’s job, Mr. Trump, to spend his second day in his job telling people how great the market under you is.  That, arguably, is for your Communications Director.

Oh, yes, you don’t have one right now, do you, Mr. Trump?

And, as several friends remind me, we will survive Trump.

Thank goodness.  At times, I think of the Roman Empire which survived a hundred bad Emperors, carried along by the bureaucracy that supported it.  As we will be, by the bureaucracy we have built but we may have lost the dream, I’m afraid.

John F. Kennedy was one of our most flawed presidents and yet he inspired us.

And, while there have been monsters enough in human history, we now have ones with nuclear weapons, like the North Korean dictator who is testing ICMB’s, an acronym whose meaning had almost slipped from my mind since the Cold War.

Yikes!

Every Sunday since January 20th, I have lit a candle for us, the people of the United States, as well as all the other people out there who are living on this crazy planet.  And for solutions to the craziness…

 

Letter From Claverack 07 20 2017 Written from the “land of off…”

July 20, 2017

Edgartown harbor shimmers below me; boats bob at anchor on a quiet, very warm afternoon on Martha’s Vineyard – the warmest day I have experienced in the half dozen or so summers I have visited the island.  Seated in the shade, with a soft wind blowing off the water, it is tolerable though earlier today most people seemed intent on finding air conditioning, crowding cool restaurants and shops.

IMG_2073

Last year I was here to help with my friends’ bookstore, Edgartown Books.  This year, I am here for just a week, to relax, read, relax some more, eat, perhaps sail a bit with my friends, eat, relax, sip a martini, read, a wonderful and undemanding rhythm; my friend Jeffrey calls it “the land of off.”

Reading was too wearying for me and I went to my room and promptly napped, waking just in time for a conference call.

Sadie, one of the two Bernese mountain dogs who live here, is recovering from back surgery, making slow and steady improvement from a bad fall some months ago.  Every day, she has water therapy in the pool.

Sadie

Far above me, a bi-plane circles, taking sightseers on an aerial tour of the island.  It is soft, bucolic and very, very far from the madding crowd.

Which is why it is very nice, in these strange times, to be in “the land of off.”  The amount of news consumed is less.  Last year, the kitchen television played CNN.  This year, old movies run constantly.  In the background of my morning coffee, “The Great Race” played, starring Natalie Wood and Tony Curtis.

Finishing a trifle of a murder mystery by a woman who seems to knock off a book a month, I felt content with little demanded of me.

An exegesis of political affairs is a shade depressing, to make mild of a situation now more astounding by the day.

Donald Trump, Jr. is being described as a “good boy,” a “nice young man” though he is scraping forty and has five children.  It is a time honored American defense used by the Kennedys when Teddy drove off a bridge not far from where I sit and a young woman died, Mary Jo Kopechne, lest we forget her name.  It is a time-honored defense for American men though not for women.  Ponder that.

Railing to the New York Times, Donald Trump, has declared he would never have offered Jeff Sessions the job of Attorney General if he had known he would recuse himself from the Russian investigation.  Sessions has said, post Trump’s remarks, he’ll stay as long as “it’s appropriate.”  Geez, I don’t know if I would stay when I knew I wasn’t wanted, especially so publicly unwanted.

Today, at noon, Trump celebrated the six-month mark in office.  You make your own decision on how well he has done.  We are one eighth of the way through his Presidency.

In Palos Verde, CA, forty-one-year old Chester Bennington, lead singer of the group Linkin Park, was found dead, an apparent suicide, succumbing to the demons he was open about but could not, it seems, master.  Rest in peace.

Twenty-two years ago, I was in Australia when OJ Simpson was acquitted of murdering his wife Nicole and her friend, Ron Goldman.  Today he was granted parole from a prison sentence resulting from an armed robbery.  He should be released in October.

Seeking comfort, I watch the newest season of “Midsomer Mysteries” and anticipate the return of “The Last Tycoon,” starring Matt Bomer and Kelsey Grammer, about a movie studio in the 1930’s, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last, unfinished novel.

It seems no wonder to me, we are immersing ourselves in some of the best television in history; we need escape, diversion and pleasure from a world that is more than untidy.

So, I sit, on my friends’ deck, watching boats bob at anchor or scud across the bay, with birds chirping while Sadie is ministered to, the future feels far, far away and the present oh so pleasant.

Letter From Claverack 07 07 2017 Musings on being home…

July 8, 2017

As I begin writing, it is twilight at the cottage.  The day began damp and grey, changing mid-day to blue and lovely.  Sitting on the deck, the torches burn to ward off mosquitoes and to give a sense of atmosphere.  It is lovely.

Of course, as soon as I typed those words, I felt the first of the raindrops and had to scutter back into the cottage.

Out there in the world, momentous things have been happening.  Trump and Putin met for the first time. Trump:  It’s an honor.  Putin: ?

It’s certain we will be hearing the parsing of the meeting for days to come.  They talked election tampering.  Putin: we didn’t.  Trump: okay. [At least according to some early reports.]  No agreement on Crimea.   Not expected.

We are to agree on a ceasefire in southwest Syria.  Good for everyone if it holds.

In Washington, Mitch McConnell faces the daunting task of passing the Republican version of healthcare legislation.  It seems to be the single most unpopular piece of legislation of the last thirty years.

Over the weekend, I listened to some interviews with people from around the country who were absolutely opposed to Obamacare and absolutely loved the ACA, not realizing they are one and the same.  It left me shaking my head in amazement and then, why should I be amazed?  We, on both sides of the fence, don’t always analyze and we just react, ideologically, and that seems to be on the increase.

In a bright moment in the world, Malala Yousafzai, a young woman targeted by terrorists, terribly wounded, and who miraculously clawed her way back, graduated from high school today.  She is also a Nobel Peace laureate. She celebrated graduation by tweeting her first tweet.

Amazing human being…

Closer to home, Etsy has cut its workforce by 15% and I wonder how that is going to affect the offices on Columbia Street in Hudson.  While that is happening, the stock has been upgraded to a buy by some brokers.

It’s interesting to me to walk down Warren Street and see all the businesses that are there that weren’t when I came and to see the ones that are still here, still pulling along.  One of my favorites is Carousel, next to the CVS on Warren.  One of my friends collects mid-century hammered aluminum pieces and I go in there and sometimes find things for her.

The Red Dot has been here since I arrived and I remember the transition of Brandow’s to Swoon Kitchen Bar.  Seems Ca’Mea has always been there since I arrived, though I am not sure about that.  That’s a little foggy.

It’s been interesting to watch all of this.  The cottage has been my home longer than any place I have lived, including the home I grew up in.  That’s sobering.  That’s rooting.  I like the sense of roots I have created here.

Yesterday, I had my car serviced at Kinderhook Toyota and ran into someone I knew.  At the Red Dot, I am always running into people I know.  Same for Ca’Mea.  It’s wonderful to go into places and be known or to know people there.

The places I’ve lived are many:  Minneapolis, Toronto, Carbondale, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, DC, Eugene, OR, New York City and now Claverack.  The places I have visited seem innumerable. They’re not but…

Of all those places, including my hometown of Minneapolis, the only place that has felt like home is here.

And I am enormously grateful for that.  It is sweet and satisfying and that is how, I think, it should be as I enter this third act of my life.

Letter From Claverack 06 28 2017 Too beautiful a day to waste…

June 28, 2017

Yesterday, I determined I would go down to the city to attend the Producer’s Guild Annual Meeting.  This morning, walking out of the studio after my program, I made an abrupt determination that I was not going.  It is just too beautiful a day to be in the city; when I left the studio, I knew what I wanted to do was to be sitting on my deck, a good strong mug of coffee next to me, with my fingers tapping on my laptop, which is where I am now.

The sky occasionally greys over but it is still a pleasant day, a little cooler than I would like but not by much.

The creek is clear, meandering gently to the west where it will eventually pour itself into the Hudson River.  The coffee is a rich mix of Honduran and Nicaraguan beans, freshly ground, from Tierra Farm, a local business that is at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday and from whom I buy my coffee.  Now that I know they have a retail store, I won’t need to worry about stocking up between the Summer and Winter Markets.

On Wednesday afternoons, during the summer, there is a smaller market in the park across from Proprietor’s Square.  Perhaps I’ll go down there this afternoon; I have friends who sell their flavored D’arcy butters there.

Once I made the decision not to go the city, I felt playful.  When I woke this morning, as the sun was just beginning to ascend in the eastern sky, I was thinking it would be fun.  Then I read an article about the deteriorating state of the subway system and remembered the achingly long waits for the C Train last time I was in the city but was still determined to go.

Until the moment I walked out and saw how beautiful it was and breathed in the sweet air and thought: why?  Yes, I would like to go to the Annual Meeting but was it worth a two-hour ride down and two hours back, an overnight stay, especially when my other meetings had cancelled or not confirmed?  And I decided the beauty of where I was would beat the beauty of where I was going.  I came home, threw my overnight bag onto the bed to be unpacked, made coffee and came out to the deck.

Opening my email inbox, I ruthlessly deleted anything that was not personal.  Delete, delete, delete to all the emails from all progressive causes pleading for money.  Delete, delete, delete to all emails referencing politics while savoring several teasing me with recipes I would like to make one day.

In the political chaos of our time, I have been seeking solace in the carefully laid out steps in recipes, promising a decent outcome if one follows the road map.  Out there in the real world, there is no real road map and anyone attempting to create one, is not having much success.

McConnell’s gamble on secrecy in creating the Senate version of the American Health Care Act, seems to have backfired on him, leaving him postponing debate and a vote until after the July 4th recess.  It does not go far enough for the conservatives and too far for the moderates while the Democrats are not having any of it.

The U.S. spends more than any other country on healthcare and, in at least some studies comparing it to other countries of similar economic status, comes out dead last in quality.  Just fix it, please. Go ahead, guys, get together and put together a plan that works. Republicans! Democrats! Please.  Aren’t we all Americans?  Can’t we do better?

Everywhere I wander on news sites today, I am flooded with ads for Pepper, a Soft Bank Robotics robot, that they are offering to help in retail and offices.  One package will replace your receptionist.  It’s about 4 feet high with big eyes, a wide range of movement and what looks like an iPad plastered to its chest.  They may be coming for us.

There is another ransomware attack hitting, mostly in Europe and Asia right now.  It’s called “Petya” and is derived from code hacked from the NSA.  Perhaps the next war won’t be fought with tanks, ships, planes and soldiers but by bunkered hackers working to bring their enemy to its technological knees.

Outside, it’s a beautiful day, a good moment, jazz standards are playing on my Echo and I am going to head to the Wednesday Market and see what’s for offer today instead of plying the subway lines of New York City.  Yes, that sounds like a very good idea on a beautiful day.

IMG_2045

 

Letter From Claverack 05 12 2017 A Series of JDLR’s…

May 12, 2017

On Monday, I had a conversation with a friend; she stated she felt she was living with constant stress due to the political landscape in Washington.  Then I had virtually the same conversation on Tuesday with another friend, followed by one on Wednesday and then again yesterday, which resulted in my friend bursting into tears.

Lest you think these are bitter liberals, two of the four are folks who consider themselves moderate Republicans.

And then there were two bright young men I met at the studio who are going to launch a conservative talk show on the station and they are full of fervor and believe that Donald Trump is the best thing that could have happened to America.

And these conversations put the spotlight on the vast political chasm that is dividing the country today.

For those of a certain mindset, liberals and moderate Republicans, the constant torment of political news is causing them to feel they are living under a dome of stress on top of the stress of ordinary life.

Many Democrats and Progressives live in outrage.  My moderate Republican friends feel the party they knew has been snatched from them, finally, irrevocably.

Nearly everyone is taking, or talking about taking, a break from news, which I did, certainly, and chronicled in my last letter.

One thing I am doing is reveling as much as I can in the beauty around me and I am so fortunate to live in this beautiful spot.  Just now, outside my window, a blue jay landed and we shared a look before he winged away.

If I were not in this place, called “your Walden Pond” by a friend, I might be going quite mad.

Parsing the day’s news is daunting.

Comey’s firing has the world all a frazzle.  Keeping a promise to a very Republican friend, I do my best to look not just at the New York Times.  So, after the sacking of the FBI Director, I checked on reactions from all sides of the spectrum.  Some, both conservative and liberal, felt the guy had to go.  Most had a sense of dis-ease at the timing, days after Comey had asked for more resources for the investigation into Russian collusion during the campaign with Trump’s campaign.

Some likened it to the “Saturday Night Massacre” during Nixon’s Watergate debacle though I don’t think we’ve quite hit that yet.  And I have this gnawing sense we might get there.

Back in my Santa Monica days, my neighbor and friend, Susan Ottalini, was an editor for CBS News and had started her career as a journalist in small town California.  She would ride on patrol with the police and sometimes they would pull someone over because it “JDLR,” just doesn’t look right.

Comey’s firing looks to me to be a “JDLR.”

Along with Trump’s tweets today, seeming to threaten Comey about not leaking to the press.

The day after Comey’s firing, President Trump met with Russia’s Foreign Minister, Lavrov and the Russian Ambassador.  No U.S. photographers were allowed to capture Trump and Lavrov, only Lavrov’s personal photographer had access.

“JDLR” on a couple of counts.

The Alt Left and Alt Right are awash with conspiracy rumors.

And the hysteria requires me to concentrate on things like:  how the sun falls between the trees when I am sitting at my desk in the afternoon, how the wind moves the branches of blooming trees, how my kitchen smells after I have made something really good…

IMG_1779

My music choices are mostly upbeat swing jazz; it lifts my mood in the morning though earlier today I listened to folk from the 1960’s and it reminded me of those dark times, Viet Nam sliding into Nixon, Watergate, democracy lurching and then righting itself.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;

Man never is, but always to be blessed:

The soul, uneasy and confined from home,

Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

Alexander Pope, Essay on Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once, long ago, when I was living in Santa Monica, one of my neighbors was Susan Ottalini, an editor for CBS News, who started her career as a police reporter in a smallish California town.  Sometimes she rode along with officers as they were patrolling

As I start this blog, it is the evening of May 10th, the evening after President Trump fired James Comey, Director of the FBI, who found out he was fired from newscasts.  And the world is quite aflutter about it.

The White House seemed unprepared for the backlash which

Letter From Claverack 04 21 2017 The past fights the future…

April 21, 2017

Apple blossoms dressed the trees in the orchards as I drove along 9H earlier today, the first, best sign of spring I’ve seen though, once having noticed them, I was aware that small buds of green were appearing on other trees.  The ones outside my windows don’t seem to be sporting them and I’m sure they will come eventually, which is how this spring has seemed – eventually we will get there – just not yet.

It has been a quiet sort of day.  Earlier I spent some time at OMI, an art center near me that I have known about but had not visited and that was my loss.  The two-hundred-acre campus is dotted with sculptures, the main building with art exhibits.  Today quite beautiful children were painting, running around in young life’s exuberance, bringing smiles to all the adults.  I offered up a thought for good lives for them; the future does feel cloudy right now.

It’s not just that this is a gray day.  Generally, I am an upbeat sort of person [or at least I think of myself as that] and today I’ve not been.  The state of the world has been weighing on me, both close to home and far from here.

Close to home, I am burdened because a friend sent me suicidal texts and I was incredibly concerned and finally asked the police to do a “welfare check.”  They did.  He then texted me he wanted nothing more to do with me.  Truthfully, I did the right thing and, at this moment, it hasn’t turned out well. For me and, I expect, not for him as he is in deep trouble and won’t admit it.

Candles to be lit; prayers to be said and to continue, as best we can.

Paris is continuing as best it can after a policeman was shot yesterday and two badly wounded by a terrorist who was killed as he was fleeing.  IS claims responsibility and France is having elections on Sunday.  The far-right candidate, Marie Le Pen, is threatening to remove France from the EU so that it can control its own borders.

She has a chance of winning.

The far right is making its might felt all over the place.

And that is so worrying to me.

For a brief, shining moment in my life it seemed we might actually be headed toward a global society and it has not happened.  It was around the time the Berlin Wall went down, a moment I will forever remember.  Driving down Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles, headed west, my bestest friend, Tory Abel, called me on my car phone and said: do you know what’s going on?  As I was listening to classical music, I didn’t.  The wall was falling.

There are all kinds of suppositions about why that magic moment did not result in a better world.

Right now, I am reading a book about “the weekend” in British homes in the 1930’s and one of the revelatory bits was about a British Lord who became a Muslim because he saw Islam as the bulwark against women getting the vote and having shorter skirts and working.

He would probably have a lot in common with IS.

Change is hard.  And changing centuries of tradition is hard and people will fight it.  IS is fighting it.

When all of this works itself out, I won’t be here.  It will take more than a lifetime.

And that is history in the making.  It takes lifetimes to work itself out.

If you are not aware of it, Chechnya is conducting a campaign against gays.  It is putting us in camps, not unlike the Nazis; there are tales of torture and death.  Can this be happening in the 21st Century?  Apparently so.  The reports are horrific.

The President of Chechnya has declared he will eliminate the gay community by the beginning of Ramadan on May 26th.

Putin has declared there is no evidence this is happening and that is Putin’s view of the world: no horrible thing is happening.  There is no sarin gas is Syria, there is no campaign against gays in Chechnya, there is no fill in the blank.

 

 

 

Letter from the Train, returning… Passover arrives and Tillerson departs…

April 10, 2017

The train is rumbling north from Baltimore to New York City where I change trains to Hudson, arriving there around 3:30 this afternoon.  It is a sunny day and the fleece pullover and winter jacket needed on the way down are unnecessary on the way home.

Hudson River

As I travel north, I have trimmed down the email inbox, sent some electronic Passover cards and started reading how to make large quantities of scrambled eggs as this coming Sunday is Easter Sunday and I am in charge of preparing the Easter Brunch that follows the 10:30 service.

It’s my hope that Mother Eileen’s clipboard filled with some people to help me. If not…

The weekend visit with Lionel and Pierre and Marcel, the poodle, was wonderful, overflowing with good food at various venues:  Modern Cook Shop, Peter’s Inn, Red Star, Rusty Scupper, Nanimi, Petit Louis.

5A39D4CA-998A-4E97-A7A6-D7B0232B9B52

On “The Avenue” [36th Street] I shopped the antique stores and found some Christmas presents, tucked in my luggage; that it is expandable saved me from buying another piece.  At BJ’s with Pierre, I stocked up on Excedrin, Prilosec and more.

Long train rides give one a time to think and I enjoy them for that, for being able to see the countryside glide by without the responsibility of driving.

Pierre sings in the choir at the Church of the Advent in Baltimore.  While Lionel and I were preparing to go to hear him at church, the television flashed pictures and video of the Palm Sunday explosions in Egypt, targeting Coptic Christians, who represent about ten percent of that country’s population.  Last word I heard, forty-seven have died and scores are injured.  At Christ Church this week, I will light a candle for them.

In response to the bombings, responsibility for which was claimed by IS, Egypt has declared a three-month state of emergency.

Rex Tillerson, our low-profile Secretary of State, heads to Moscow for meetings, either strengthened or weakened [depending on your view] by the US bombing of the airfield in Syria where chemical attacks against a rebel city were initiated.  Tillerson called the Russians incompetent for allowing Assad to keep chemical weapons.

Putin is thinking of revoking the award he gave to Tillerson.

This should be an interesting week for watching Syrian affairs.  How are they all going to react?  Niki Hailey is talking regime change; Tillerson is not. Trump is unpredictable and Putin a risk taker; Assad seemingly a wily survivor who managed to turn peaceful protests into a civil war no one seems capable of winning or willing to negotiate an end.

Syria is bringing five questions about the situation to the head, outlined in an article in Bloomberg, available here.

We have ships moving toward the Korean peninsula, possibly to be in place in case there is a decision to attack North Korea and its pudgy, vindictive, unpredictable little dictator, Kim Jong Un.

President Xi of China and Trump managed to get through their summit without damaging each other and we will await to see what China will do vis-à-vis North Korea.

In 2013, Democrats used the “nuclear option” and McConnell said they would live to regret it, which they did last week when Gorsuch was successfully nominated to the Supreme Court and sworn in this morning.

Marine Le Pen, the far-right French candidate for president, has declared that France was NOT responsible for the deportation of Jews during WWII, a statement that has created, as one might imagine, more than a soupcon of controversy.

New York is the first state offering free four-year public college to its students in families with incomes under $100,000, a move to help residents avoid crushing college loans and to help the state have a work force ready for the future.

May it work.

For all my friends celebrating Passover tonight, Chaq Kasher veSameach! [Happy Passover!]

Letter From the Train 04 06 2017 Thoughts through mist and fog…

April 6, 2017

It is dusty grey; mist and fog lay lightly on the Hudson River as I head south toward New York City and then on to Baltimore to visit Lionel and Pierre.  It will be a long weekend; I return on Monday.

IMG_1741

It had been my intent to drive but when I woke this morning to predictions of thunderstorms and tornadoes along my route, I opted for the train.

Last night, I sat down to begin a letter and could not find words.  Ennui swept over me and I wandered off to bed, watched an episode of “Grace and Frankie” and fell asleep, waking early to prepare to leave.

Yesterday was my first day as host of the Wednesday version of WGXC’s “Morning Show,” from 9 AM to 11 AM.  The night before, I had a night full of crazy dreams in which I got to the studio on Wednesday morning only to find they had changed all the controls and I had no idea on how to work them.  In another dream, I decided to sleep at the station the night before to make sure that I didn’t miss the program but did anyway.

No psychiatrist is needed to interpret these dreams.

And the program went well; there was much praise from friends and colleagues and I relaxed, thinking I can manage this.  It was fun and for my first guest, I had Alana Hauptman, who owns my beloved “Red Dot.”

Probably no one remembers Texas Guinan anymore; she ran the biggest, best, brassiest, funniest, speakeasy in New York during Prohibition.  She was loved and admired and imitated.  She was known for her big heart and saucy character.  Alana is all of that and is the Texas Guinan of Hudson.  The Red Dot has stood for nineteen years and been an anchor to the town and certainly my world.

There is a slew of people lined up to be guests on the show including the folks who run Bridge Street Theater in Catskill, world premiering a new play shortly and Jeff Cole, who is the CEO of the Center for the Digital Future at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication as well as Howard Bloom, who is a multi-published author and once press agent to every major rock group in the 1970’s and ‘80’s.  And Fayal Greene, who has lived in Hudson for a long time, civically active, and is leaving at the end of the month for Maine, where she and her husband will live in a retirement community near their summer home and many relatives.

The farewell party will, of course, be at the Red Dot.

All of this is very hygge.

And I roll around in the hygge-ness of my life as outside my bubble I am often stupefied by my world.

Politics has never been this raucous in my lifetime and perhaps not this much since the founding of the Republic, which, I understand, was a very raucous time.

As I was getting ready to board the train, Representative Devin Nunes, Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, has now recused himself from the Russian investigation over ethics concerns.

In Syria, eighty plus people, including children, died in an apparent gas attack.  Trump says the incident crossed “a lot of lines for him.”  Tillerson has said that it was undoubtedly Assad’s regime.  Assad is saying bombs ignited a store of gas weapons in the attacked town.  Russia is demanding the US lay out its cards on how to solve the Syrian problem.

This all sounds like a lot like another replay of the last few years, with some new players and no new results.  In the meantime, Syrians continue to suffer; something like five million of them are refugees, many living in squalor with their only drinking water coming from septic tanks causing typhoid and a further circling down into this hell that has been created.

A radio report from a Syrian refugee camp yesterday may have been the cause of last night’s ennui.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is meeting with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago today and tomorrow.  It is a high stakes meeting reports say.  Wide chasms exist in trade with Trump the candidate picking on China through most of the campaign and the Chinese, unlike some Americans, have long memories and play a long game.

If this turns out to be the pivot point for the United States, future historians might look at our tendency to be focused on short term goals as a factor in creating this pivot.

And in this miasma of non-hygge news, is a report that Jeff Bezos, second richest man on the planet, is selling a billion dollars of Amazon stock a year to finance Blue Origin, his space venture.  That makes me smile.  Money at work on building the future.

 

 

Letter From Claverack 03.05.2017 From a very worried place…

March 6, 2017

It is a very chill night, here at the cottage. Jazz is playing softly.  It came to me tonight, that Alexa has been learning about my jazz likes and so when I say “Alexa, play jazz…”  Well, it seems she’s learning my favorites.  I am interfacing with artificial intelligence.

Tonight, I am spending it with me.  And I feel like I’m good company tonight.

It is good to hygge at the cottage tonight.

The noise in my world is incredible right now.  My closest friends on Facebook send numerous posts every day, every hour about our political situation.  Dinner last night was non-stop. At today’s brunch at the Dot, his name wafted through the air. My client is the Miller Center for the Presidency.

Donald Trump owns the conversation, ladies and gentlemen, in my head anyway.

His ratings are through the roof!

And that’s what he likes.

For twenty minutes, I have been sitting here working to find an un-trite way of saying:  I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime.

This is a global phenomenon, our President Trump.  He’s a global big deal and I can’t believe what’s happening.  Come on, whatever side of the aisle you’re on, this is not a normal presidency.

Just isn’t.

Every tweet generates frenzy.

And the Russians are coming…

Every time I turn around, there are the Russians.  Did anyone in the Trump camp NOT talk to the Russians?  Enquiring minds want to know.

Everyday there is a Trump story that carries the news beast through another day.  On good account, I have it that people in the news business are run ragged these days.

Let’s face it: we have a ratings obsessed President.

And his ratings are HUGE.  Which is what he likes.

It’s just not like anything I have ever, ever seen.

It’s not like anything any of us have seen.  If anyone has, let me know, please.

The weekend has been consumed by parsing Mr. Trump’s tweeting that the Obama Administration ordered wiretapping of his phones during the last days before the elections.

Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has said she’s “seen no evidence” and that we need to deal with evidence, not statements.  Bravo.

Senator Richard Burr, also a Republican, and Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said they would follow where the evidence leads in the Russian investigation.  Kudos to you, too.

Senator Rubio posits the President may have information the rest of us don’t.

And, I think, if he does, he should reveal it.

Right now, as I’ve said, one of my clients is the Miller Center for the Presidency at the University of Virginia.  Because of my work with them, I find myself thinking about the presidency and our president a lot.  A lot.

At church today, I heard very little of Mother Eileen’s sermon because my mind was racing on what I should say in a report to them I need to submit this week.

While I am very hygge in my cottage, I am more than a little unnerved by what is going on in Washington.  And that is seeping deeper into my life, the concern I have for the fabric of the country in which I grew up and in which I live.

Oh, yes, I know we will get through this. And I want to be sure we get through this in as healthy a way as possible.

I am one little man, sitting in a cottage on the Claverack Creek in upstate New York.  And I, one little man, can do things to influence how all this plays out.  God help me, I am politically active.  I called my Congressman’s office from Saba to articulate my concerns.

It is time for participatory democracy, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican.  Which means dialogue.

And right now, we aren’t dialoguing.

We’re living in an either/or world and that’s not healthy.

We need to pay attention.

Really, we do.