Posts Tagged ‘Biden’

Letter From New York 09 22 15 The Pope, Putin, Syria, Refugees and so much more…

September 22, 2015

As I am sitting in the Acela Club at Penn Station, I am watching CNN, which is covering the arrival of the Pope. He landed at Joint Base Andrews and at this moment is arriving at the Diplomatic Mission of the Vatican in Washington, DC, on Massachusetts Avenue.

When Francis touched down, President and Michelle Obama and Vice President Biden were present to greet him, an unprecedented honor. He is waving to the crowd as he slips into the residence for a night of rest.

Tonight is Yom Kippur, the holiest of nights to Jews, and Pope Francis does not want to detract from that. Tens of thousands have been mobilized to keep him safe. The Secret Service sent a man to Rome to watch how Francis interacts with crowds so they might anticipate what they needed to do.

While waiting for Francis to address a Joint Session of Congress [a first], we are, once again, facing a shutdown of the government. The Republicans want to defund Planned Parenthood and the Democrats are opposed to that. Somehow I fail to see why the Republicans are SO against Planned Parenthood.

My Republican respect keeps descending.

While all eyes are watching Francis and his movements, EU leaders have been meeting, working to decide how to handle the thousands of refugees and migrants. I found the information a little confused and oriented to dealing with the future rather than the present.

While the EU is determining what to do with the refugees there, Turkey and the US are working to figure out what Putin is up to in Syria. He intends to start bombing ASAP. They’re not sure who it is he will be bombing. Will it be IS as he says OR will it be the anti-Assad Syrian rebels who are also fighting IS? Turkey and the US fear it will be the latter as Putin and Assad have been playing footsie for decades.

I’m now on the train, heading north, on my right the Hudson River glides by with the setting sun glinting off its surface. It’s been mostly a grey day in New York but now the sun is bursting out from behind the clouds as it descends in the west.

All the way out west, in Burbank, CA, a 24 year-old man was taken into custody after he punched a 78 year-old in the face over Nutella Waffle Samples at a Costco. It seems like something that should be in “The Onion” and not real news. But it is real. The young man could face up to 11 years in prison.

There is a soft, golden glow in the west as we move north. The landscape is inescapably beautiful. I am closing down now for the night, wanting to enjoy the beauty around me before the sunset and we are gathered in the dark.

I am coming to the end of reading Steven Saylor’s Roman novels – at least all the ones he’s written so far. Another one is coming out in October. But they remind me that world has always been full of travail and that gives me hope that we will survive this time and find our own next future.

Letter From New York 03 05 15 In a winter wasteland…

March 5, 2015

As I start to write this, I’m on a northbound Amtrak train, heading back to the cottage after three and a half days in the city. I’m looking forward to being back there. There is paperwork I must organize for the accountant and I will do that this afternoon, cozy with a fire and a good British mystery playing on Acorn TV. The city is a mess. No way around it. A mess. Slushy, heavy snow is falling and tangling traffic and all transit.

My train was late arriving into Penn, coming in swathed in snow and wet. Now we are exiting the tunnels to parallel the West Side Highway before breaking free of Manhattan.

It is wildly beautiful and winter treacherous. Ice floes dot the Hudson.

A Delta flight skidded off the runway an hour ago at LaGuardia, closing the airport.

While having my first cup of coffee this morning and reading the New York Times, I read an article that outlined the depth of Iran’s involvement in Iraq. While I had learned yesterday that an Iranian General was seemingly directing operations, I did not know there were Iranian soldiers on the ground, which apparently there are. The General, Qassim Suleimani, has been described as a stately Osama bin Laden. That is the apparent reason that the US led coalition has not been involved in the advance on Tikrit. It doesn’t want to be seen aiding the Iranians, particularly this General.

At the same time, thousands are fleeing, attempting to reach Samarra for safety.

IS is fighting back, setting oil fields aflame to obscure targets to the Iraqi jets that are pummeling them. They have booby-trapped the roads leading into Tikrit and that is slowing the advance.

In Africa, Boko Haram, under pressure on several fronts, struck back by killing scores in a village in northeast Nigeria.

Late last night Hillary Clinton tweeted she wanted the State Department to release her emails and State says they are reviewing them.

The snow has shut down Washington. Congress called it a week yesterday. President Obama is at the White House, snug I’m sure, with only a briefing and a lunch with Vice President Biden on his schedule.

Everyone is attempting to interpret the questions asked by Supreme Court Justices in yesterday’s hearing about Obamacare. The pundits are working on reading the tealeaves.

Elsewhere in politics, Jeb Bush and other Republican presidential hopefuls are converging on Iowa this week to attend an agricultural forum. While far and away in the lead among donors and Republican centrists, Bush is having trouble breaking through to the rank and file. There is fatigue with the Bush name and Jeb needs to find ways to separate himself from his father and especially his brother.

The World Resources Institute has stated, in its first comprehensive analysis of all the data, that by 2030 there will be a tripling of the number of people affected by river flooding. It is hoping its report will encourage countries to take mitigating measures in the coming years.

May 7th marks the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania. Torpedoed by a German submarine in 1915, the ship sank in just eighteen minutes, taking nearly 1200 people down with her, including 128 Americans, among which was the playboy Alfred Vanderbilt.

The sinking, always surrounded by elements of mystery, became a rallying cry that helped bring America into World War I in 1917. “Remember the Lusitania!” The Lusitania was a Cunard liner and Cunard is hosting a special sailing to note the event.

On board were four million rounds of ammunition. It has long been believed that the ship was also carrying dangerous stores of munitions that were highly unstable. Shortly after the torpedo hit, a second explosion racked the liner and it began to list precipitously. Minutes later it was gone.

To my left, the Hudson River is a white wasteland but the snow has stopped and the weather improved. In a little less than an hour, I’ll be in Hudson and not long after that at the cottage, curled up with my papers to get to the accountant tomorrow.

Letter From New York 02 25 15 Things Pleasant and Unpleasant

February 25, 2015

It is a bright, sunny afternoon outside. Temperatures have soared to 39 today, making this the warmest day in quite awhile. The sky is a soft blue, tinged with a few soft white clouds.

Freshly back from my dentist, I have sparkling teeth from my semi-annual cleaning, a process they know I dread. In my adolescence, I was outfitted with braces by Dr. McMengele, an orthodontist who seemed to delight in tightening my braces every week, a torture I still remember vividly. It’s why I had such a time watching the dentist scene in THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, if anyone remembers that.

So, thankfully, my current dentist treats me very gently. She is a firm believer in that there should be NO discomfort. I like that.

But it is not a comfortable world right now, is it? We are coming up on Friday when the Department of Homeland Security faces defunding. Because almost all of them are considered “essential” they will keep working, without pay. Not particularly good for morale, I suspect. Mitch McConnell is attempting a solution but the House Republicans seem to be on the edge of rejecting it. Tomorrow, we will see what happens.

Today, in Miami, Obama is giving a speech on immigration to a largely Hispanic audience, hoping to score public relations points even as a Texas court has put a stay on his Executive Order regarding immigration. Presumably, in this speech, Obama will lay out his next legal steps to see his order carried out, promising a breather for millions who are living under the threat of deportation.

In other political news in the States, Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago, did not earn enough votes to avoid a runoff election for another term as Mayor. He is facing Jesus Garcia, who won 34% of the vote to Mr. Emmanuel’s 45%. Mr. Garcia, from Durango in Mexico, had strong support for public school teachers and minorities. This will be an interesting race to watch. Mr. Emmanuel will be a fierce opponent. Once Obama’s Chief of Staff, he is an accomplished and focused politician.

The FCC is likely to adopt utility style rules to ensure “net neutrality,” eliminating the possibility of pay-to-play fast lanes on the Internet. It is intended to prevent abuse by Internet service providers, generally the cable companies.

Next week, Israel’s Prime Minister is coming to Washington to address Congress. He is expected to denounce the negotiations that are going on with Iran regarding its nuclear capabilities. Susan Rice, National Security Adviser, has called the visit “destructive” to Israel/US relations. That’s the strongest words yet from the White House side regarding the upcoming, protocol-breaking visit.

When Netanyahu is in town, the President will not be seeing him. Vice President Biden will be in Central America and John Kerry will be negotiating with the Iranians. Netanyahu tried to set up a meeting with Senate Democrats but they have turned him down.

I am sure House Republicans will give him a rousing welcome.

In a nervous Paris, drones have been spotted flying around important spots, like the Eiffel Tower, during the last two nights. Their source remains a mystery and a concern.

Yesterday, the Reverend Phyllis Sortor of the Free Methodist Church was abducted in Nigeria. Today a ransom of $300,000 was demanded for her return. The suspicion is that this is not an act of Boko Haram but bears the signature of other kidnappings for money that have taken place all over Nigeria.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, charged with monitoring the Ukrainian Truce, is asking for help. Some have been held hostage, one had his car blown up and one of their four drones was shot down. Russia says it will help with radar and drones. We’ll wait and see.

Ah, the sun is beginning to set, a soft golden yellow glow is filling the western horizon, and the sun is a dazzling orb above the treetops along Riverside. I must prepare. I am attending NOT NOW DARLING, a play being put on by a theater club in New York, and a friend is appearing in it. Everyone attending must dress up. I won’t get in without a coat and tie.   Goodness knows when the last time was I wore a tie!

Letter From New York April1, 2010

April 1, 2010

Or, as it seems to me

Last week was spent in Las Vegas, attending the CTIA Wireless show – all things mobile. I saw every conceivable phone cover, saw a large number of apps aimed at men 18 – 34, mostly sports oriented, and anything and everything else that had to do with the mobile phone industry. The phone manufacturers touted all their phones though it was interesting that anything that wasn’t a smart phone seemed almost quaint no matter the pizzazz put into the design. For whatever reason, the Pill Phone stuck with me. It would tell you what pills you were taking, what they did, and remind you when you should take them.

It was an amazing time. I came away with the certainty that mobile would rule the world – that we are transitioning away from the place based computer to one that you can hold in your hand, take anywhere with you and soon will be able to do everything that your desktop can do. James Cameron, he of TITANIC and AVATAR fame, was on a panel saying that 3D would be coming to your mobile device. It is all going to be there, in the palm of your hand.

One of the most charming characters present was Biz Stone, co-founder of TWITTER, which has been thinking of mobile since the service was first a gleam in the eye of Mr. Stone. TWITTER has become a force in all kinds of places and a catalyst for social unrest. Witness Iran. What do you think, Mr. Stone, about the events in name the place? How do you feel about the revolution? This was not exactly, I suspect, what Biz Stone was thinking when he conceived TWITTER but it is the way TWITTER is being used – as a catalyst for social movements. He told the amazing story of a young American student journalist arrested in Egypt who twittered from his mobile: arrested. It pulled together his friends, his teachers, a whole movement which had him out of prison almost as fast as he had found himself there. The Egyptians hardly knew what had hit them. Appropriately enough, on his release he twittered: free.

Besides being deluged with mobile technology advances, I had the chance to stop for a moment and have dinner with old friends, Chuck and Lois Bachrach, which served to remind me that as giddy as we get with the devices we hold in our hands, the main purpose of those devices is to hold us together with the people who matter.

And while I was being dazzled by the technology, by the Pill Phone, by the thought of 3D on my small screen, Congress went and passed Health Care Reform, which I learned from a CNN alert sent to, of course, my iPhone. I’ve stayed fairly clear of Health Care – I don’t pretend to understand the nuances of the legislation though I know I found it particularly disturbing that the U.S. ranked 37th in the world for health care. That seemed pretty poor to me. But it was all a debate that went beyond me. I wanted better but wasn’t sure if what was being proposed would lead to better. All the noise…

But, at the end of the day, Health Care Reform was passed and it was, “a big [bleeping] deal,” thank you Mr. Biden. You have provided the perfect comment to landmark legislation, bringing it to the patois of the proletariat, the language of us all – whatever this piece of legislation is, it is a big bleeping deal as health care reform has eluded passage by Congress for over a century. It’s hard to believe but all of this started back with Teddy Roosevelt.

The dark side of it, unfortunately, is that passage has resulted in protests that go beyond the pale of what should be happening in America. Do we really need death threats to accompany passage of a piece of legislation? Does vandalism need to be the coda? I wish I remembered my Civics lessons better – has this much anger been evidenced in the past or is this a new phenomenon in the life of the Republic? Certainly it seems deeper than any divides that I recall even as technology builds bridges across the divides.