Archive for the ‘social’ Category

Letter From New York 07 13 15 Thoughts while traveling south by train to New York City…

July 13, 2015

The ride on Amtrak from Hudson to New York is one of the most beautiful train rides in the country, if not the world. There are a couple of bad patches like the gravel pit that seems to go on for quite a while and there is the passage by Sing Sing Prison, ominous, concrete and barbed wire. But 90% of the ride is astounding. Right now I am passing gently rolling hills that look much as they must have when Henry Hudson sailed the river centuries ago.

Opting to come in on a post noon train, I sat on the deck this morning with coffee in hand, listening to the birds sing and reading the New York Times. It was quiet, peaceful and soul soothing.

The markets have bounced up on having a deal with Greece in sight, despite the wariness of some European governments about the sincerity of the Greeks in keeping promises they’re making. There is a long road to go because this is just an agreement to negotiate. But, as someone once said to me, something is always better than nothing.

The Greek banks are still closed and cash is very, very short.

Scott Walker of Wisconsin surprised no one by announcing he is running for the Republican nomination for the Presidency. Donald Trump still holds the lead in the polls for the Republican pack.

Chapo Guzman, “El Chapo,” escaped yesterday from a prison in Mexico. A nearly mile long tunnel was dug to his shower in his cell. Slipping in to the shower, he stepped into the tunnel and is now on the run. This is his second escape from a maximum-security prison. Last time he stayed free for thirteen years. There is, of course, a manhunt on but his escape has made Mexicans more cynical, and more distrusting of their officials. Bribery and/or intimidation are suspected factors in the escape. “El Chapo” has an estimated worth of $ 1 billion.

We have just glided by Indian Point, the nuclear reactor that sits on the Hudson River. Always controversial, its detractors want it closed. A couple of recent incidents have made people nervous.

Brian Gallagher is on the train with me. He’s the right hand of Joe Boardman, who is the President of Amtrak. Brian and I chat regularly about our favorite long distance routes. I need to go to Minneapolis this summer for my annual familial visit and I am probably going to take the train one way. I love the sense of traveling that trains provide, of moving through space on your way to a place.

Right now, as I move south, I also wish there was a boat that sailed from New York and put in at Hudson for a stop. I would love to make the trip by water, also a great way of having a sense of traveling.

While I am moving down the Hudson Valley, in Vienna there are more last minute efforts to hammer out an Iranian nuclear deal despite rumors that an announcement would be made today that there was a deal in place. Perhaps not until later this week, if it happens at all.

The Iraqis are planning on an offensive to take back its largest province, Anbar, from IS.

The President of Nigeria has fired all the heads of his armed forces and will replace them. It has been expected. The chaps fired were the ones who didn’t make any progress against Boko Haram. Now that Boko Haram has lost much of its territory, Nigeria having had help from Chad and Cameroon, it has stepped up suicide attacks.

For those whose day is not complete without a bit of royal update, Prince William launched his career today as an air ambulance pilot.

Right this minute, I am south of Croton Harmon, with a stunning river view. West Point slipped by on the far shore not long ago.

Once in town, I am meeting a friend and then we are joining a third friend for our quarterly Indian dinner, tonight at Pipalli, on 29th near Lexington, in the heart of “Curry Hill.” Nick, David and I have been doing this for three or four years, always a good chance to get caught up and have a martini, our official drink.

Tomorrow, I will let you know how it is.

Letter From New York 05 11 15 Of glittering sun and charming princes…

May 11, 2015

Today dawned gloriously, bright shiny sunlight came barreling down from the east, casting a disc of yellow/white onto the creek, glinting up at me as I stood on the deck for a moment before heading for the city.

The Hudson looked peaceful as I rolled south on the train, giving no evidence that there had been a fire at Indian Point, the nuclear reactor forty miles north of midtown Manhattan or that oil from there had seeped into the river, causing environmental concerns. Governor Cuomo was there over the weekend, being briefed on the happenings. It makes him and many others nervous about a nuclear plant that close to the city.

Anything nuclear makes me nervous.

For those who have a fond spot for Britain, it may be time to be nervous. While last week’s election has saved the political career of David Cameron it might just herald the beginning of the end for “Great Britain.” The SNP [Scottish National Party] won 56 of 59 seats that Scotland has in Britain’s Parliament. They also are very much in favor of holding another vote about Scotland going its own way from the rest of the United Kingdom [England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland]. Just doesn’t seem right but it could happen.

What does seem right is the idea of a truce in Yemen that is supposed to start tomorrow to allow aid to reach the Yemenis. Fuel resources are almost exhausted and food is scarce. Days ago it was estimated that 80% of Yemenis were going hungry. It’s only become worse since then.

As the time for the truce draws near, the Saudis are deploying a strike force near the Yemen/Saudi border. Trucks carrying tanks have been traveling through the night to take positions. The Houthis say they will honor the truce as long as the Saudis do but if there are infractions they will immediately respond.

One UN official felt five days would not be enough time to get aid to the Yemenis but it is all they have, if they manage to hold the truce for that amount of time.

Secretary of State John Kerry is off to Sochi, Russia to meet with Vladimir Putin to discuss Syria, Ukraine and Iran. I wonder what that conversation is going to be like?

In more Washington news, writer Seymour Hersh has written a piece for the London Review of Books claiming that the story of Osama Bin Laden’s death was a lot of bunk and the truth is quite different. Seems he thinks that it was an American/Pakistani conspiracy and that OBL was actually a Pakistani prisoner at the time of the raid and the raid was a cover-up for Pakistan’s involvement.

Pretty far fetched and, like most conspiracy theories, pretty hard to prove.

From The Moscow Times, an English language newspaper in Russia not known for partisanship to Putin, claims that Russian soldiers have, in small numbers, quit the army after being forced to serve in Ukraine.

According to Vladimir Putin, no Russian soldiers are in Ukraine, only volunteers.

While the migrant focus has been on the thousands attempting to cross from Libya to Italy, another migrant drama has been playing out. Muslim Rohingya from Myanmar and Bangladeshi immigrants have been rescued at sea attempting to reach Malaysia since Thailand has been cracking down on human trafficking. The Rohingya are not allowed citizenship in Myanmar and as Muslims are a minority in that mostly Buddhist country and have been singled out for ethnic violence. Because of the Thai crackdown, aid workers are concerned that many have been abandoned at sea by their smugglers.

George Zimmerman, he of the Trayvon Martin case in Florida, is back in the news today, having been himself slightly wounded in a road rage incident.

And Tom Brady, Quarterback of the Patriots, has been suspended by the NFL for four games while the Patriots were fined a million dollars and two draft picks in coming years. Seems a slight slap on the wrist though it is almost assured that Brady will appeal his suspension. Ah, Deflategate!

Prince Harry, now fifth in line for the British throne after the birth of his niece, Charlotte, is in New Zealand, learning about the aftereffects of the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch. By all accounts he is charming the New Zealanders to no end.

And that brings me to the end of today’s Letter From New York. I am about to do a conference call and then see about some dinner. That sounds charming.

Letter From New York 01 12 15 Venturing back to the city…

January 12, 2015

Last night, I returned to New York City to have dinner with a friend, David, who was in town from Delaware. It was interesting stepping off the train and throwing myself into the mild mayhem that is Penn Station, so much grittier and grim than Grand Central Station.

There is always, now, a moment when I take a deep breath before plunging in to the swarm. Really, it is an assault on the senses. Parts of the station seem to be falling apart. Tarps lined one of the ceilings to keep rain from falling on our heads, I guess.

Meeting David at his hotel, we went just a half block to Angus’ in the Theater District and had a meal and a drink and a good catch-up. As I don’t have cable either at home or at the little apartment in New York, I watched the Golden Globes with David. The moment that stood out to me was in George Clooney’s acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award. He said something to the effect that everyone in the room had managed to grab the brass ring, they were inside the tent and getting to do what they wanted. And it is true, people in that room, for the most part, had grabbed the brass ring. Good for him for saying so.

This morning when I left the apartment building, William, the daytime doorman, reminded me it was raining outside. I thanked him for the warning but ventured out without an umbrella. I had forgotten that all the umbrellas are at the cottage. It was a wet, chill day in New York, grey and somber, streets slick with rain and everyone a little damp and miserable.

In contrast to the bucolic setting of the cottage, the city makes it easy to be reminded of all the things happening in the world. Sirens blare, ambulances screech through the streets, police cars race from one point to the next, lights all rotating madly, enough to give one an attack of some sort. Here it is possible to feel close to the chaos that was Paris last week.

Sitting waiting for an appointment, CNN Breaking News as well as the BBC announced that ISIS had hacked into the twitter account of Centcom, the US Military Command. I wondered if we had moved into the era of total cyber warfare? Centcom defined the attack as cyber-vandalism. When does vandalism cross into being an attack?

I feel less dispassionate in the city. The world is very close to you. The reality of trouble is only a fingertip away. Winding my way through the streets and traversing the subway, I felt a greater need to be alert, to be a bit more careful. Part of me wanted to slip away as quickly as I could, to once again bathe in the calm of the cottage. I am here tonight, gone tomorrow and then back again on Wednesday for a dinner meeting. I’ll stay, probably, the rest of the week. It will be interesting to see how I adapt to city life again after so much time in the country.

Letter From New York 12 23 14 The Eve of Christmas Eve

December 24, 2014

It is the eve of Christmas Eve and I am freshly back from my friends Lionel and Pierre’s where I had a wonderful Shepherd’s Pie. They will come tomorrow at three for us to exchange presents and then again at 6 for dinner. I am cooking pumpkin soup, a salad of haricot verte, followed by ham, yams, asparagus and other things.

I have spent the whole day shopping for the next three days as I will be cooking for the next three days. I have organized menus and purchased food and prepped as best I can for the Holidaze.

In the background Christmas sounds are playing. I have a couple of presents left to wrap but I’m done. And I’m glad I’m done. It feels good to have organized it all and to have it all [almost all] wrapped and underneath the Christmas tree.

It all feels good. The chatter of all the troubles in the world seems far away.

Who knows the reason the Internet in North Korea went down? Was it a “proportional” response on our part or was it just an accident? I don’t know though I am suspicious.

It might have been the Chinese, who seem to be getting a little annoyed at the North Koreans. Not a good thing – the Chinese are about the only people who actively prop up the North Koreans. Oh, sorry – Putin has invited Kim Jong-un to Russia.

But Putin has his own troubles. The falling price of oil and the collapsing ruble and those pesky sanctions against him are causing a bit of a free fall in the Russian economy.

THE INTERVIEW, the silly movie at the heart of so much controversy, may actually get a limited release in some movie theatres. Something praised by the White House. Congress would like to have some screenings so they can see what all this ruckus is about and they might get it in the New Year.

Outside my window, at the desk where I am writing, Christmas lights burn.

On Friday, I will have a “Boxing Day” party. It’s the day after Christmas and according to some, it was the day the servants got to celebrate in England after having spent the last couple of days dancing on the whims of the Lord and Lady of the Manor.

It was also, according to legend, the day children in England went around with boxes to collect alms for charity.

But, whatever, the day after Christmas is Boxing Day in the Commonwealth countries and I have given many a Boxing Day party and this year will be doing one for about twenty folks, neighbors and friends, a chance to continue the celebration of the Holidays.

I shopped for that too, today. Never in my life has my grocery basket so overflowed! Never have I been so grateful to gather together the elements of celebration. It feels good to be gathering folks to the Cottage for the Holidays.

I love bringing people together at Christmas; it is a natural outgrowth of my upbringing when it seemed that every Christmas our house was full of friends and relatives, celebrating and feasting.

So let us celebrate and feast! Let us sing the songs of Christmas. Let us drink [carefully or take a cab!] and make merry. It is Christmas.