Posts Tagged ‘Baghdad’

Letter From Claverack 01 02 2017 Welcome to a new year and a new era…

January 3, 2017

Not yet quite six o’clock in the evening, the sun is gone and floodlights are on the creek.  Soft jazz is on the Echo and I am winding down from some writing I did today along with emails and a couple of loads of laundry.  An ordinary day at the cottage, most of it cozied up with my laptop while watching Marcel, Lionel and Pierre’s sixteen-year old poodle sleep on the couch.  I’m dog sitting again while they are off in Boston.

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New Year’s was surprisingly good.  My expectations were low and the reality great.  There was a feast at my friend Matthew Morse’s house with thirteen people, followed by going down the road to friends of his who have restored as their home a 19th Century roadhouse.  There is a balcony looking down into the tavern area and I was standing there looking down at a crowd that seemed like a hundred, sipping Moet Chandon as the New Year came in…

New Year’s Day was spent in recovery with a game of Clue over cocktails, followed by roast chicken.  Not bad.

Every time I peek into the state of the world, I want to slam the door and run into my bedroom with a cold bottle of vodka and a straw.

It sometimes feels like I have stepped into a Jean Cocteau film.

Hours after I exchanged e-mails with a friend who lives in Istanbul, working for Sony Pictures, there was a nightclub slaughter.  Responsibility for it has been claimed by IS.

In Baghdad, a suicide bomber killer a couple of dozen people.  This Sunday, I will light a candle for them at church, the people of Baghdad and Istanbul.  Turkey has been assaulted this month by a whole series of attacks.  Baghdad has never not been assaulted since we invaded.

Trump tweeted something New Year’s Eve that has lots of people outraged.  It seems impossible for me to follow his tweets though I have been told the cable news channels have been spending hours attempting to decipher them.

His press secretary has pleaded with people to stop mocking him.  I don’t think that’s going to happen.  Alec Baldwin has stepped into a brand-new career on SNL and we are going to be living with it for Trump’s entire term in office.  He is just too juicy a target for satirists.  I wish I were a comedy writer.

Trump’s team is saying we should be focusing more on punishing Hillary Clinton than being concerned about Russian hacking.  Did I say something about being in a Cocteau film?  [And if you don’t know who Jean Cocteau is, Google him…]

US officials are saying Russia’s “fingerprints” are all over the hacking and Trump is saying he has inside information on the hacking which he will reveal tomorrow or Wednesday. Personally, I can’t wait.  But then I am still waiting for him to tell us how he will separate himself from his businesses.  That may be more difficult than handling the Russian hacking.

Then, of course, since I last wrote Carrie Fisher, “Princess Leia” from “Star Wars” died after a heart attack on a flight back from London, only to be followed across the River Styx by her mother, the legendary Debbie Reynolds, the following day.

Eras seem ending all around me and I am not happy…

 

 

 

Letter From New York 07 04 2016, via the Vineyard… A 4th that Disney would be proud of…

July 4, 2016

It is a picture perfect 4th of July in picture perfect Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard.  Happy 4th, everyone!  I hope it is picture perfect wherever you are…

Yesterday, as I was shuttling back and forth from the bookstore, I kept thinking how carefully curated Edgartown is by the town fathers.

Joyce had a half price bookstand on the porch of the bookstore and they cited her for having that; it was too unseemly for the town.  It now rests in a corner in the bookstore.

It feels like they all went to the Walt Disney School for Civic Perfection.

Visually stunning, the little town of Edgartown, is a haven for preppies.  In town, we are awash in pastel and Lilly Pulitzer.  I had forgotten that salmon was the color of choice for WASPS.

Oak Bluffs is much more diverse than Edgartown, and each part of the island has its own feel. Edgartown is prep, all the way.  I think that Igor and Mischa, the two baristas at “Behind the Bookstore” are the two edgiest characters in town and loved by everyone. There is no doubt that “BTB” has the BEST coffee on the island.

There will be massive fireworks, I understand, though I am not sure I will be seeing much of them as I am closing the bookstore tonight, a role I frequently play.  Last night we closed at ten and I didn’t get back until 11:30 and didn’t unwind enough to sleep until one.  Ten percent of the day’s take was done in the last hour as folks wandered in after dinner to have books to read this beautiful 4th.

There is an interesting opinion piece in today’s NY Times about the Declaration of Independence being partly driven by a fear of Indians and slave revolts.  You can find it at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/04/opinion/did-a-fear-of-slave-revolts-drive-american-independence.html?_r=0

It is fascinating, interesting, explanatory and gives me cause to think, which is good in an opinion piece, whether at the end you agree or not. 

The British, in attempting to quell the rebellion, were agitating both American Indians and slaves.

Yesterday, Jeffrey, Joyce and Joyce’s niece, Julie, and her husband, Mark, along with Joyce’s sister, Elyse, went clamming and came home with 219 of them, near a house record.  Before I leave for the store, there will be a feast of them and other things before Mark and Julie fly back to New York and I leave to deal with the madding crowds that will be roving Main Street after dinner.

And as we celebrate, I am also taking a minute to bow my head in memoriam for the 200 plus dead in the bombing of a marketplace in Baghdad as Ramadan nears its end.  And for those who were killed in Holey’s Cafe in Dhaka by six armed men, in turn killed by security forces.  At least several of the attackers came from elite families, without want and well-educated.  Their families are left without explanations and with tremendous guilt at their sons’ actions.

The Paris attacks, 9/11, the Madrid train attack and all other killings on Western soil are terrible and damning and yet I keep being reminded by things like the marketplace bombing in Baghdad that IS is mostly killing other Muslims.

Now, as I sit on the veranda, overlooking Edgartown Harbor, that world of violence is far away.  Boats motor or sail by with easy grace on still water, birds chirp, the sun shines, American flags wave in the light breeze.  It is a day the town fathers of Edgartown could not have choreographed better.  Uncle Walt would be proud…

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Letter From New York 04 14 2016 Moving down the Hudson River…

April 14, 2016

The Catskills are covered with a soft haze as I move south on the train; the Hudson River glistens like rippled, burnished steel.  I am headed to the city for a few social get togethers, more about pleasure than business.  Tomorrow morning, I am going to the exhibit “Pergamon” at the Metropolitan Museum.  It chronicles the art of the Hellenistic period, from the death of Alexander to the rise of the Roman Empire.

I have a late lunch with my childhood friend, Mary Clare, and then drinks with Nick Stuart, of whom I have seen too little in the last few weeks and then back to Hudson on tomorrow’s 5:47.

The sun glitters but it is not yet warm and yet so pleasant that it feels decadent.  Speaking with friends this morning, we reminded each other that we were incredibly lucky:  we are not Syrian refugees or fleeing Boko Haram or fearing suicide bombers in Baghdad.

Nor am I in southern Japan where an earthquake measuring 6.5 struck, toppled houses and buckled roads.

All those things happened today, the 14th of April, 2016 CE.

It is a good day for Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who will not be charged with battery over his altercation with a reporter recently.

It was a good and bad day for mothers whose daughters were kidnapped two years ago by Boko Haram.  CNN aired a “proof of life” video that showed many of the lost girls alive and at the same time highlighted the failure of the Nigerian government to free them.

For 3 hours and 40 minutes Putin fielded questions on his annual call-in show.  He described the Panama Papers as an “American provocation” and assured viewers that the economy will get better next year.  He ordered an investigation into two women’s complaints they hadn’t been paid in months.   It gave him a chance to seem grand and magnanimous while underscoring the illusion that Russia is a democracy.

As he chatted with his constituents, Putin’s jets flew low passes over a US warship, something that disturbed Secretary of State John Kerry.

We are putting combat troops into the Philippines as the South China Sea dispute ratchets up with the Chinese, who have now deployed combat jets in the area.

Isn’t there a better way?

Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, a Republican and a supporter of gay sex marriage, was booed off the state at an event in Boston when he didn’t say he would support a bill that would give transgender people the right to use the bathroom of their gender identity rather than that of their gender at birth.  It’s not what he expected.

Trump and Cruz are accusing each other of strong arming delegates to the Republican Convention, which has been pointing out to the general population on both sides of the political spectrum what an arcane world convention politics is, with super delegates, strange rules, and all sorts of other traditions that can manipulate the popular vote.

That is what Kasich and Cruz are hoping for the Republican convention, a brokered one that will allow one of them to grab the nomination.

Hillary is counting on those same things in the Democratic Party to ensure that she gets the nomination on her side.

Brings up images of “smoke filled rooms” from past generations.

The Hudson River in the afternoon sun is impossibly beautiful and I am privileged to enjoy the view, comfortable that I am probably not going to have to flee in the night, that I will get an evening meal and that I will be safe as I sleep.

Hudson River

It is these simple things we need to keep remembering or, at least, I need to keep remembering.

Letter From New York 07 23 15 A perfect day in Columbia County…

July 24, 2015

In the west, the sun is slowly setting, a great golden orb pulsing through the trees and almost hurting my eyes as I sit at my desk typing. It has been a magical summer day in Columbia County. Rising early in a cool morning, I sat on my deck reading and sipping coffee, reminded of summer mornings when I was a child in Minnesota. Then the sun was glittering off the creek. Snapping a shot of it, I sent it to Nick Stuart, my friend who is currently touring Southern California with his daughter Francesca. He returned with a shot of a greyish morning in LA, with downtown Los Angeles visible in the background of the shot.

It is Thursday night and another week has slipped away. Last Friday night I was headed north, plumped with the excitement of having a full week at the cottage. Now that time has slipped away and it has been very sweet. Friends have visited, I have had friends for dinner, books have been read, shopping has been done and now that time is coming to an end. Next week I will be back in the city.

World events swirl around me while I am here and I make note of them but feel far from them. We have done a deal with Iran, something that seemed impossible. Republicans are going to attempt to derail it. Interestingly, the Ayatollah Khamenei seems to have decided he is okay with it. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Ash Carter, the Secretary of Defense, has surprised Baghdad with a visit to discuss the preparations to retake Ramadi from IS. How strange it is that I have become so familiar with such unfamiliar names of places like Ramadi. Years of war have caused them now to be tattooed on my brain.

Obama is about to make a visit to Kenya to address the Global Entrepreneurship Summit; Kenya is agog with excitement. Obama’s father was Kenyan of the Luo in the west of Kenya. “Mama Sarah,” his grandmother, will go to Nairobi to see him but he will not go to the ancestral lands of his father. Kenya is deeply invested in the success of Barak Obama. Schools are named after him; children are named after him. He is the “native” son who has become the leader of the most powerful nation on earth.

Ah, the sun has slipped down and the sky is now a soft pearl grey. Twilight has arrived while I review the events of the day.

NASA has announced the finding of a near Earth twin, Keplar 452b. Well, may be an older cousin like planet but one that holds the possibility for all the factors NASA believe are necessary for life. Heavier gravity, older than earth, but in the “Goldilocks” zone, it may well be a place where life has evolved. Hopefully, radio telescopes are looking at it to see if there are messages that might be coming from it. Unfortunately, it is 1400 light years from here. We will need warp drive to get there.

Donald Trump is in Laredo, Texas. I would so like to chat with my friend Alicia who is from there. Would love to get her take on his visit. He is causing constant conniptions in Republican circles, even more so now that he is thinking of running as a 3rd party candidate. They see catastrophe in front of them. The Donald is leading in the polls! And if he doesn’t get the nomination, he might not go away! Ouch!

How rich is he? Hard to tell from the forms filed but Forbes is guessing $4 billion.

The Euro is up on the progression of Greece obtaining new loans from the EU. Reading an article just now it seemed like it’s Peter borrowing from Paul to pay…I have to say it seems more and more like a house of cards that will only work if there is a reduction in Greece’s debt, which is unsustainable. The country can’t survive with the amount of debt it has.

The sun is almost gone. Evening is upon us. The light has turned on for the fountain in the courtyard. Soon it will be summer dark.

What a wonderful summer day it has been. I am going to curl up with a new book or a good movie and let the day slip away. Tomorrow I have lunch with a new friend and then dinner at home with my friends Susan and Jim; we know each other from the train.

Perfect. May your day be perfect too!

Letter From New York 07 04 14 Happy Birthday, America!

July 4, 2015

Today is the birthday of the United States and I am spending it in Baltimore, sitting in a lovely apartment in the Inner Harbor area called Fell’s Point. Outside it is, as almost everyday seems to be this summer, grey.

We all went to see “Inside Out,” the new film from Pixar and it was everything I didn’t expect it to be. It was heartwarming and brought tears to my eyes. I highly recommend it. A young girl from Minnesota migrates with her parents to San Francisco. In a mishap, the emotions and characters Joy and Sadness get lost with all her good core memories and poor Riley, the girl, finds herself left with Disgust, Anger and Fear. Not a good combination. But the combination of elements in the film make it wonderful and so, once again, I highly recommend it.

We are waiting to see the fireworks tonight – unless they pull a rain check and decide to do them tomorrow though the forecast for Sunday isn’t better than today’s.

While America is celebrating its birthday, the Dalai Lama is celebrating his July 6th birthday all weekend with a whole series of parties. Happy Birthday! The venerable Dalai Lama turns 80 on Tuesday.

As America celebrates its nationhood, Vladimir Putin has sent holiday greetings to President Obama and suggested there were many things they could work on together, like global terrorism. Obama apparently reminded him of the necessity of living up to the Minsk Accords, which require Russia to pull back men and armaments from Ukraine. I suspect it was not a jolly conversation but at least they’re talking, always a good thing.

Yesterday, I mentioned that IS has begun destroying some of the ancient artifacts of Palmyra. One of the noted spots in the ruins is an amphitheater where, I suspect, the plays of the ancients were performed. I’m sure there was nothing quite like a good comedy by Aristophanes to lighten a moment in Roman times.

Yesterday, the amphitheater was used by IS as a stage for killing 25 captured soldiers. The firing squad was composed of militants as young as 13 and 14.

Iraqi jets soared over Mosul earlier today, dropping not bombs but leaflets promising that soon a campaign to free the city would begin. A new radio station, Mosul FM, would soon begin broadcasting and the city’s citizens should listen to it for instructions when the campaign to retake the city begins.

IS did its best to keep people from reading the leaflets.

In the meantime, bombs in Baghdad killed 19.

Tomorrow is the fateful day for Greece. They will go to the polls to vote yes or no about the bailout that has already expired. Apparently, media is encouraging people to vote yes while the government is encouraging a no vote. Lots of Greeks aren’t really sure for what they’re voting. Polls indicate it could go either way, with the country seeming to be split almost exactly down the middle.

European leaders are predicting a Greek collapse if the vote is a no. The Greek leaders are telling the Greeks that it will give them a stronger position in negotiating with their creditors.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t bring a collapse for the rest of us if Greece votes no.

While Greece is voting, the British will be celebrating the christening of Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge which will occur on the Queen’s Sandringham estate at St. Mary Magdalene Church on the grounds. The Princess is fourth in line to the throne and generally someone this close to the throne would be christened in London but the Cambridge’s are breaking with tradition.

It will give the world something happy to focus on while watching the vote in Greece.

Right now, I am munching on cheese and crackers while writing and sipping a martini made by Lionel. Our chairs are on the balcony, facing the Inner Harbor, ready for the fireworks.

It was here, in Baltimore, that Francis Scott Keyes composed the “Star Spangled Banner” during the war of 1812, a song set to a ditty that was making the rounds of London’s Gentleman’s Clubs in the late 1700’s.

I hope all of you have exceptional and safe 4th of July’s.

Letter From New York 05 18 15 Of a grey day with some things interesting, some tragic…

May 18, 2015

As I trained into the city today from Claverack, the east bank of the Hudson River was shrouded in a fog, hiding the foliage on the far bank of the river, casting a ghostly pall across the landscape. It felt like the first shot in a Gothic romance set in the Victorian Age.

Closer into the city, the fog dissipated but New York has been grey all day, a heaviness that seems to have affected the citizens. Smiles have been hard to find today. One crossed my mouth as I passed through Penn Station this morning on my way to the subway.

I have almost gotten to the point where the soldiers blend into the background and are simply a part of the scenery. Today one soldier was tapping his foot to the rhythm of the music being played by a busker a hundred feet away. I smiled.

While on the train and the subway, I scanned the headlines of the day.

Blazoned across all the news outlets was the story of the fall of Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, hard fought for by American soldiers twelve years ago, now in the hands of IS. Iraqi soldiers were reported fleeing as fast they could. 25000 civilians fled the city, seeking safety in the capital. Reports have indicated at least some have been turned away from Baghdad.

It is also grimly reported that IS has slaughtered at least 500 as they overran the city, specifically seeking any soldiers or policemen.

In Waco, Texas there have been at least 192 arrests of bikers after a fistfight got out of control in front of a Twin Peaks restaurant, ending with nine bikers dead and eighteen others wounded. There are rumors that bikers from around the country are riding toward Waco, an image that calls up scenes from Mad Max, the older one, as I haven’t seen the new one yet. Police have cordoned off exits around the area and have said they’re ready.

At least five different motorcycle gangs were involved, including the Cossacks and the Bandidos.

Speaking of Twin Peaks, do any of you remember that quirky, creepy television show “Twin Peaks” from twenty-five years ago? It’s coming back. David Lynch will return to direct. Kyle McLachlan will be back to play his character, Special Agent Dale Cooper. Showtime has committed to a new series, picking up the crazy thread of a show that had everyone confused most of the time, while contributing regularly to nightmares. Will the “Log Lady” return?

The southern boundaries of Europe have seen increasing migrations of people desperate to depart Africa, much of the traffic coming from Libya and organized by criminal gangs involved in human trafficking. The EU has proposed launching a naval campaign to destroy their boats, thus disrupting their business. It awaits UN approval.

It appears the smugglers are being allowed by IS to operate out of the part of Libya they control in exchange for half their profits.

Macedonia’s crisis continues. The opposition is demanding the departure of Prime Minister Gruevski and he has been saying: no way, Jose! The opposition has rallies. Gruevski gets out his followers. Violence is in the air. Gruevski is saying this is all the result of foreigners.

That sounds familiar.

What is unfamiliar is that President Maduro of Venezuela may face real opposition in the next elections. Sentiment is growing against him. Polls indicate that if elections were held today, he would be out on the street.

In less dramatic news today, the President of the United States got his own twitter account. @Potus. There was some kidding back and forth between Obama and Bill Clinton [@billclinton]. Apparently the twitter handle will go to the next occupier of the Oval Office.

Also, little Elian Gonzalez, who was found floating off Florida in 1999 by some fishermen is now grown up. His mother died attempting to get the two of them from Cuba to America. His arrival caused a tug of war between those who wanted him to stay and those who thought he should be returned to his father. In a dramatic moment, armed men stormed the house where he was staying with one of the rescuing fishermen and forcibly removed him so as to return him to Cuba.

He now would like to return to America to express his love for this country, he has said in an exclusive ABC interview.

Speaking of ABC, George Stephanopoulos has found himself in some uncomfortably hot water. Apparently he has given $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation without telling his bosses at ABC. They consider it an honest mistake. Republicans are, not unexpectedly, calling for some version of his scalp.

Today has been full of events, some just interesting, some like Ramadi, tragic, and it would be possible to continue longer but it’s time to wrap up.

I’m off to seek some sustenance at the end of the day and see if I can shake the weight of this grey day.

Letter From New York 02 28 15 Working to understand…

February 28, 2015

It is the last day of February and, as I sit at my desk, the sun is just beginning to set. The amount of daylight is about the same now as it was in October. There are sharp shadows on the ground; soft jazz plays in the background.

It’s been a busy day. Early morning rise to do emails, followed by a run to the Post Office for a week’s worth of mail, a trip to the local Farmer’s Market held indoors in the community hall of Christ Church down in Hudson, a little cleaning, grocery shopping, a stop at the Red Dot for a bite to eat, then home to write this blog.

It was a good day. In my email this morning was one that indicated my Indian Visa has been granted so I will have to gather all the things I need to pick it up on Monday. Next comes finding a plane ticket, giving me the most luxury for the least amount of money. I am working to use miles to upgrade myself on both legs of a very long flight.

Monday I am seeing my doctor to get all my shots.

The world is reeling today from the death yesterday of Boris Nemtsov, a leading opposition figure in Russia who was gunned down while walking across a bridge last night. Every opposition figure in Russia is more frightened than they were. Nemtsov’s mother spoke frequently that she was afraid for her son’s life, afraid that Putin would have him killed.

Thousands paid tribute to him today in a march.

Putin has denounced the murder and is “personally” taking charge of the investigation of the assassination. I wonder how that will go?

In Egypt a new, even more severe anti-terrorism law has been passed. Following that, the Egyptian courts have ruled that Hamas, the Palestinian organization, is a terrorist group, pushing them further into a corner.

Also in Africa, President Mugabe of Zimbabwe threw himself a lavish million-dollar birthday party at Victoria Falls to celebrate his 91st. Yes, 91st. He is the world’s oldest head of state. It doesn’t seem to bother him that his country is desperately impoverished. Let the good times roll! Elephants were slaughtered for the feast and there were seven huge birthday cakes.

In Iraq, 37 people have died in bombing attacks, in and north of Baghdad. IS is believed to be responsible. IS controls about a third of Iraq and a third of Syria, that territory making up their so-called Caliphate.

One of that “Caliphate’s” most famous individuals, Jihadi John, has the world attempting to figure out how a nice kid from London became Jihadi John. People who knew him then say they are stunned by who he has become. Debate rages in the UK as to whether that country was responsible for turning him from the nice kid next door to the gruesome face of IS.

In Tyrone, Missouri, locals and local police are attempting to understand what triggered 36-year-old Joseph Aldredge to shoot eight people, killing seven, before turning the gun on himself. Four of the dead were his cousins. Apparently he had a history of drugs and guns and may have become unnerved at the death of his mother from lung cancer. She was found dead in her kitchen after the shootings, possibly having been dead for as long as 24 hours.

Next week, Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, will address Congress. The address, at the invitation of Speaker John Boehner, in addition to shattering protocol, has shattered the bipartisan show of support for Israel. Many Democrats will not show up for the speech. Several foreign ambassadors that have been invited have also declined. Two weeks after this speech Netanyahu faces a tough election back home.

The Administration has been accusing him of doing everything in his power to undermine the negotiations going on with Iran over their nuclear program.

It is a messy, dicey situation that will get worse before it gets better and it will be interesting to see if the Congressional speech helps or harms Netanyahu back home.

The sun is setting. I am getting ready to go to a neighbor’s for dinner. Tomorrow they are predicating more snow, which caused me to sigh audibly. This is the longest, coldest, snowiest winter I have remembered since being here.

Spring will come. I know it will.