Posts Tagged ‘Brian Williams’

Letter from Claverack 04 19 2017 A painful evening…

April 20, 2017

Outside, it is grey, drear, damp and dank.   Twilight is beginning to gather around the cottage; I have made myself a martini and am looking out at the still bare trees, thinking that tonight, I am screaming for real spring, real green, and real warmth.

Tonight, I did something that is going to make one of my friends very angry with me and it was something I had to do.  He sent me some suicidal texts and I couldn’t ignore them.  Since he had stopped communicating, I called the police and asked for a welfare check.  It will not endear me to him and I would not have slept tonight if I had not.

So bloody strange is life.  It would be great to say this was a night full of hygge.  It’s not; it will be a night of doing hygge sorts of things to get back to a hygge state.

Jazz is playing.

This morning I did my radio program and it went tolerably well, now three weeks in, I am beginning to get the hang of it.

Tomorrow, I am going into the city only to turn around and come back because tomorrow we are having a birthday party on the train for four of our Regulars, one of whom is making a birthday with a zero.

It will be fun; I will be playing bartender and am concocting a drink to celebrate the coming of summer – a “summertini.”

And, truthfully, I am looking forward to something fun after this afternoon.

Not probably having fun is Bill O’Reilly, who got booted this afternoon from Fox News, where he has been the cock of the walk for ever so long.  Truthfully, I was a little surprised it happened.  The allegations of sexual harassment had reached a fever pitch and name advertisers were leaving in the dozens but his ratings remained high.

It seemed to me they would send him off for a while, like Brian Williams, to do penance and then bring him back after a cooling off period.  But no.  Walking papers.

My suspicion:  James and Lachlan Murdoch apparently had had enough, convincing their father time was nigh after $13,000,000 in settlements by Fox News over 15 years for allegations of sexual misconduct by O’Reilly, with more coming in on a regular basis, including one by an African-American staffer that he referred to her as “hot chocolate.”

Don’t cry for his next meal.  He will, I’m sure, walk away with millions.

Fox News will suffer.  He was their highest rated star, making millions and millions for them.

Chief beneficiary:  the bow tied Tucker Carlson who will be getting his slot.  Wouldn’t want that pressure.

Jon Ossoff, a young, charismatic candidate in a special election in Georgia, failed to get the more than fifty percent he needed to win outright so there will be a run-off election in June but he came damn close.  It will be a fight to the finish.  The seat has been safely Republican for years and now an energized number of Democratic Georgians have put it in play.

Aaron Hernandez, once a rising star with the New England Patriots, was found dead in his cell in the prison where he was serving a life sentence for murder and everyone is asking how such a promising life went so far askew?

Venezuela is about, it seems, to explode.  Hundreds of thousands have been marching in the streets against Maduro, who succeeded Chavez when he died.  The country is in economic tatters and Maduro doesn’t seem to be able to fix it so he is blaming everyone and is threatening to bolster the militia he controls from tens of thousands to a half million.

This is an elected official on his way to dictatorship.  Which is what we must be aware of these days. Look at Erdogan in Turkey; elected and moving toward dictatorial powers.  Same in a dozen countries in Africa.

And I am looking at the pearl grey twilight of Claverack and am about to go on to some amusement as I need amusement while I wait to hear if my friend is okay.

Letter From New York 06 18 15 From Waterloo to refugees to Laudato si…

June 18, 2015

Sitting at the dining room table at my cottage, I am looking out toward the creek, seeing a grey and moody day outside. It is almost chill and I’m wearing a fleece jacket to ward off the cool. I am in a slightly cranky mood from both the grey and that I am being told I must have flood insurance by the company which just bought my mortgage from the last owners of it who had bought it from someone else. In the fourteen and a half years I have been here, I have never had to have flood insurance before.

Part of me shrugs and goes: just one more thing to deal with and I will. My neighbors to the south of me have had some flooding issues but I am much, much higher than they are. We’ll see. But while I fight it, I guess I am going to have to get it and figure it out from there.

In the meantime, the British Royals have had a busy week. First there was the 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta and then it’s been Ascot this week and then today we have the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo in which Wellington defeated Napoleon once and for all. It was a ghastly, bloody battle in which a full quarter of the combatants were killed.

Many wrote accounts of the battle after it was over. The victors hardly felt jubilant in the wake of the destruction. But it did change history. Since then, the British and French have been allies, not enemies and have not fought each other. Napoleon was ushered into exile and his dreams of European hegemony faded. It ushered in the British Century and the great days of the British Empire.

Today there was a service at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London to mark the Anniversary, attended by Prime Minister David Cameron and the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.

In South Carolina, there is mourning for nine individuals killed at a historic black church in Charleston by a young white man. The suspect, Dylann Roof, has been apprehended in Shelby, North Carolina. It is being labeled a hate crime. It is alleged that Roof entered the church during its Wednesday night Bible Study, stayed for an hour and then began shooting.

Obama expressed sadness and outrage and called for a national reckoning on guns, not that I think that will happen. One of the people killed was the Pastor; Obama knew him.

Laudato Si, Praise be to You, the Pope’s Encyclical, a letter of teaching, was published today and challenged the world to clean up its filth. Controversial even before its official release due to a leak, it is stirring up conversation about man’s relationship with the planet. Conservatives are not happy about it and some have been basically telling the Pope to mind his own business. But he considers this his business and he is going to have his word heard. Addressed not just to Catholics but also to every living human on the planet, Francis took a bold step that will probably only make him more popular to most while infuriating those who disagree with the stances he has taken.

It is the beginning of the Holy Month of Ramadan, a time of fasting, praying and spiritual rejuvenation for Muslims.   It moves with the lunar calendar.

Today there are more displaced people than ever in the world, over sixty million. Over 11 million are from Syria alone, some outside the country and some within the country. If all of them were in the same country together, it would be the 24th largest country in the world.

Lester Holt is now the permanent anchor of the Nightly News on NBC, the first African American to hold such a post. Brian Williams is not coming back to the chair he vacated when suspended in February, at least not for a while. He is going to ratings challenged MSNBC to deliver breaking news. It’s a lot like being tossed out of the Major Leagues in baseball and sent back down to the Minors.

And, apparently, he is getting a lot less money.

Outside, it is still grey, moody and gloomy. I am playing jazz on Pandora to lighten my mood. Soon, my friend Susan will be here and we’re going to Local 111 over in Philmont for dinner and a catch-up.

Letter From New York 03 17 15 The many aspects of nature…

March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

This is an odd day for me, always has been, as I am of German/Scandinavian descent and so there isn’t a lot of resonance in my background with the day. And the feel of the bacchanal that accompanies the day was far from the emotional bandwidth that resided within my family of origin. We were good German Catholics.

If you are celebrating today, be careful. Apparently tomorrow is a great day for dentists, having to deal with the results of fistfights from tonight.

It’s been a grey, grey, drear, damp day in Claverack with sudden bursts of sun breaking through the dark clouds for a few seconds, teasing one to hope for more.

Just back from a walk around from the neighborhood, I immediately went online to see if there were any updates on the Israeli election. There aren’t any yet. It’s a tight election and tomorrow we may know more but there are likely weeks of wrangling ahead to see who can actually form a government. Poised for the first time to be a power are Israeli-Arab voters who have joined together their numerous small parties under a single banner for this election.

Netanyahu has claimed they are coming out in droves and has said it is US money that is hiring buses to bring them to the polls. It has brought accusations of racism upon Netanyahu.

The result of this bitterly fought election, as ugly as anything American politics serves up, is important to America. Israel and the US have been historically close and I believe the majority of Americans would like to keep it that way but right now the relationship is frayed.

Chris Borland, a player for the SF 49ers, has decided at 24 to retire rather than to face the possibility of permanent brain damage. He is one of the best rookie players in the league.

Every year during “The Upfront,” billions of dollars are exchanged between networks and advertisers, buying great swaths of advertising inventory in exchange for what is hoped will be an advantageous price. NBC is facing a particularly trying Upfront this year with lingering problems from the Brian Williams situation, Today being in second place among the morning shows and has a ratings slump occurring at MSNBC.

It will be very interesting to see how the Upfront plays out this year. Discovery’s head, David Zaslav, has announced that he thinks this year will be “tepid.” Money is beginning to move toward digital alternatives.

I follow this because this was once part of my life, when I worked at A&E and Discovery.

Veering from advertising to humanitarianism, the island nation of Vanuatu is beginning to run out of food and supplies. While the death toll has been low so far, communications are still down and needs are going up. One organization ramping up to help is Save the Children, http://www.savethechildren.org/.

Living alone, as I do, gives one a great deal of time to think. My friend, the writer Howard Bloom [“The Lucifer Principle” and others], calls nature a “bloody bitch.” And when I consider situations like Vanuatu, I have to agree. It will be years for it to recover. 40% of its income comes from tourism, cruise ships stopping by mostly. That is indefinitely suspended.

Nature is wonderful and awe inspiring. It is also destructive and capricious.

Right now a vast solar storm is occurring. If it gets bad enough, you might see damage to satellites, overloading of power grids and other fun things. And should you be living in the high latitudes, it will also be beautiful to behold.

Do you remember the movie “The Breakfast Club?” It was released thirty years ago and there was a special screening of it last night at the SXSW Film Festival. Amazing; seems like yesterday. Its stars Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy were there, also a little in disbelief that it had been thirty years.

Twenty years ago, Microsoft gave us Internet Explorer. Now they are going to kill it off and will launch a new web browser, specifically oriented to mobile users and integrating Cortana into it [their version of Apple’s Siri]. It doesn’t officially have a name but is codenamed Project Spartan.

Now I must finish up and go to the drugstore to pick up a prescription so I can keep getting everything together for India.

Letter From New York 03 06 15 Not Accident Prone…

March 6, 2015

It is around 4:15 in the afternoon as I begin this; the day is just beginning to fade. All day the sun has been bright and crisp, sharp shadows crossing the land. Despite the sun, it’s been cold outside though while I was in the city the ice on the creek did melt.

The trend is for warming weather here, getting up to 49 degrees on Monday, the first real break in the cold in weeks.

It’s been a busy day; finishing some numbers for the accountants and getting them and some paperwork delivered. I have waded through some other paperwork and am now sitting down to write.

While driving home from the accountants, I listened to a report on NPR about the destruction that appears to be happening at Nimrud, an ancient Assyrian city in the hands of IS. I’ve noted before they have posted pictures of them taking sledgehammers to ancient works of art. IS believes these artifacts are signs of idolatry and therefore must be destroyed. They’re taking with them the history of much of the world, including their own.

In another sad note today, Albert Maysles, the noted documentarian, passed away last night in New York City. He and his brother, David, made some of the most famous documentaries of the 20th Century, including “Gimme Shelter” about the 1969 Rolling Stone tour that included footage of a man being stabbed to death at Altamont and “Grey Gardens” about two cousins of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. He continued to work up until his death. I met him a couple of times at events. He was, deservedly, a legend of the documentary world.

Long a fan of space exploration [the only person I have ever asked for an autograph is Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon], NASA’s Dawn has settled into orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, seeking signs of life on it while testing technology that may be used to carry supplies to a manned outpost on Mars.

Also, in technology today, but somewhat more frightening, is that Lockheed-Martin successfully tested its new ATHENA laser weapon today, destroying a truck’s engine from more than a mile away. Ray guns are here.

This weekend is the 50th Anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” the Selma march that was disrupted by violence, captured by the news, and seen as a major turning point for the national attitude toward civil rights. Obama is leading the commemoration on Saturday, extolling young people to be active. One of the leaders of the Selma to Montgomery march was John Lewis, then only 23 and now a member of Congress.

Apple is joining the Dow Jones index of stocks while that index plunged today on the good news that jobs had grown more than expected and thus raised fears of an interest rate hike.

The political scene seems dominated by two conversations today. One is the specter that Hillary Clinton cannot manage a campaign. The email snafu is an indicator, say some pundits. And if she can’t run a campaign, will she be able to manage an administration?

The second big news in the political scene is that Democratic Senator Menendez of New Jersey is facing indictment on charges of corruption, trading influence for gifts.

Andy Lack is returning to NBC News. Having built The Nightly News and Today into powerhouses, he departed NBC. They are now bringing him back to fix the mess they have. Today is trailing Good Morning America and we all know about Brian Williams.

Veteran actor Harrison Ford, of Star Wars and Indiana Jones fame, crash-landed a vintage World War II plane on a golf course in California yesterday. While he sustained injuries, he is expected to make a full recovery. He does seem accident-prone though.

Thankfully, I am not too accident-prone. The sun is slowly setting as I finish this; the world seems shades of brown outside my window. I am going online next to look at hotels in Delhi. It is only sixteen days until I leave.

Letter From New York 03 03 15 An interesting day, all in all…

March 3, 2015

Yesterday, I made the round trip to the city and back so I woke up at the Cottage again this morning where the temperature was nine degrees with a wind chill of zero. Starting about now, the weather will deteriorate and there will be snow, wind, sleet, the full panoply of winter delights. It is not supposed to be much better in the city but at least I won’t be trying to get here.

I have a few appointments this week, including picking up my Indian visa this afternoon after successfully [!] booking the flights I wanted to and from Delhi. Yesterday they were unavailable and today they were! I will leave New York on the 22nd and return on the 5th of April. My speech at the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, will be on the 29th. Before and after, I will spend some time with friends in Delhi and perhaps travel to Goa.

While going about my business this morning, my phone went off with alerts about Israel’s Netanyahu’s speech before Congress. He warned us not to make a “bad deal” with Iran, that they couldn’t be trusted. From reports I have read, it was an eloquent speech and may have been the most important in his life. Netanyahu is facing a tough election back at home and this certainly could give him a boost.

Or it might all backfire.

Certainly there has never been a time when Israel’s relations with the US were so fraught. Netanyahu’s opponent has been making points at home by indicating that Netanyahu’s tweaking his nose at President Obama is causing trouble.

The political exegesis of today will go on for days and will be great to watch.

While Netanyahu was addressing Congress, President Obama was on a video call with Hollande of France, Merkel of Germany, and Prime Minister Cameron of the UK to discuss the crisis in Ukraine.

General Petraeus, once a military legend in his lifetime, resigned in shame from the CIA in 2012 after the revelation of an extramarital affair with his biographer. He also shared some classified information with her. Today, he pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge, agreed to pay a $40,000 fine and will escape jail time.

It was also revealed today that Hillary Clinton used a private email address as opposed to a State Department email while Secretary of State and may have broken rules in doing so. I am sure this will fuel the fire at Fox News. The Washington Post has declared that she is her own worst enemy. Perhaps that is true of both Hillary and Bill Clinton.

In just three days, the Department of Homeland Security once again faces the possibility of being out of money. However, it appears that Boehner will allow a “clean” bill [without anything about Obama’s Executive Order on immigration in it] to reach the House floor. The Tea Party wing is enraged but the bill has a good chance of passing.

At this moment, 2:33 PM, oil is trading higher and the market lower. Clashes in Libya are spooking the oil market while the markets are pulling back from yesterday’s NASDAQ high.

The Supreme Court tomorrow will look at four words in the Affordable Health Care Act. Their interpretation of the meaning may gut Obamacare by making it unconstitutional for the Federal Government to offer subsidies to the poor for health care. The Court may determine that only States are able to offer subsidies. If that is way the ball rolls up to seven million Americans in as many as 37 states will lose their health care subsidies.

Andrew Lack guided NBC News in the halcyon days when both The Nightly News and Today rose to new heights. He brought in Brian Williams to groom him to replace Tom Brokaw. Apparently, he is being wooed to return to NBC News to help them straighten out the mess they’ve fallen into, at least that’s the rumor around Mediaville.

Today has been light on global reports. What’s been happening here in the US has been fascinating, what with “Bibi” Netanyahu stirring the pot in Washington and Hillary having found herself with another “situation,” the Supreme Court about to make what might be its most momentous decision as well as General Petraeus’ foibles.

An interesting day, all in all.

Letter From New York 02 22 15 Happy Oscars Viewing…

February 22, 2015

Unusually, I am starting work on my blog early in the afternoon; usually I wait until the sun has begun set but about that time today I will need to be down at the Hudson Train station to pick up friends who are returning from Baltimore, where they spent the weekend.

The Hudson Train Station is charming in its way. It is the oldest operating train station in the Amtrak system. It looks much the way I imagined it looked in the 1940’s.

Almost a hundred and fifty years ago, the train carrying the body of Lincoln and his son, Willie, back to Illinois, stopped for a few minutes in Hudson, greeted by a tableaux that was described by Edward David Townsend, Commander of the train, as “one of the most weird ever witnessed.” There was a coffin, with a lady in white draped over it, mourning; the station was draped in black and white bunting, with evergreens. At either end of the coffin were a soldier and a sailor. A number of women, also dressed in white, sang dirges. All of this was lit by torchlight. No wonder Townsend thought it weird. [Thank you to The Gossips of Rivertown for the details.]

The town is planning to recreate that weird scene this April 25th, the Sesquicentennial of the event. I can’t wait.

Hopefully, by April, the weather will have warmed. We are still living in the land of snow, ice and cold. Today it is warming up to thirty degrees, only to plunge again in the days ahead with more snow predicted.

What I would not have predicted was turning to the news today to find that Al-Shabaab, the Somali terrorist group, had released a video suggesting there should be attacks against American and Canadian shopping malls, including Mall of America, which is in Bloomington, a suburb of Minneapolis, my home town. Particularly of concern is that the Minneapolis area is home to many refugees from Somalia. Al-Shabaab has been actively recruiting young men from there and some have gone back to Somalia to fight for them.

Perhaps more predictable is that there is still heat in Giuliani’s comment about Obama not loving America. Republican Representative Darrell Issa of California suggests we should thank Giuliani for questioning the President’s love of country. Not unexpectedly, the NY Times has countered with a chronicle of the number of times President Obama has declared his love of country. Giuliani reports he is receiving death threats.

Brian Williams continues to take it on the chin. Today he is being criticized for not giving money to his “cash strapped” high school. I haven’t given money to my high school either. I didn’t like the place very much.

Tonight, of course, are the Oscars. But have you paid attention to last night’s Razzie Awards? They’re given out to Hollywood’s worst. SAVING CHRISTMAS, starring Kirk Cameron won Worst Picture. He won Worst Actor, too. Cameron Diaz won Worst Actress for SEX TAPE and THE OTHER WOMAN. Worst Screen Combo was won by Kirk Cameron and “His Ego.”

I attended the Razzies the year Halle Berry won for Worst Actress for CATWOMAN. She arrived clutching her Oscar and was quite funny. They have grown from a personal party to Hollywood’s anti-Oscars.

Tonight’s Oscars will be interesting. It appears that BIRDMAN and BOYHOOD will be duking it out for Best Picture. Having seen both of them last night, I would be hard pressed to make a choice. Both were excellent, neither of them blockbusters, just very, very good films.

The sun is brilliant today, casting clear dark shadows on the freshly fallen snow. Marcel, the dog I am babysitting, sits asleep at my feet as I write this. Having not eaten yet today, I am going to head down to the Red Dot for a bite before picking up my friends.

Happy Oscar viewing!

Letter From New York 02 21 15 As the snow falls…

February 22, 2015

Outside my window, a soft swirl of fresh snow is falling. Soft jazz plays in the living room, with the sound drifting to my desk where I am writing. The day has turned grey and everything outside looks muted.  The big orange plow trucks are patrolling the streets but I am now in for the duration, a fire burning in the Franklin stove. My neighbors’ dog, Marcel, is asleep in the living room. I am babysitting him for the night; I have done so before. He is quiet, good company.

Around noon, I went down to Hudson to meet a friend at Stair Gallery, where he was bidding on some objects at their auction. Just before I arrived an enameled music box went for $120,000. He won the bid on a piece of silver, an articulated fish, and then we went off to lunch.

Post lunch, I dropped him back at the Gallery and came on home to tend to Marcel and to be off the roads, already treacherous when I was heading home at 2:30.

I have come to love these muted grey days, sitting at my laptop, working on this blog, music in the background, finding touch points with events of the day.

Like most days, this one started with coffee, very strong, and a dollop of the NY Times.

Yemen’s former leader left the capital last night, either released or escaped. No one seems to know. But when he reached his hometown of Aden in the south, he took up residence in the Presidential Palace.

In a startling kind of strategy, the Pentagon seems to be broadcasting its intentions to retake Mosul in the spring. Why, many are asking, would you want to broadcast that? Surely not! The response was that it was hoped that all the manpower being readied would discourage IS and encourage the residents of Mosul to rise up against IS.

Senator McCain is not amused. I am not surprised!

The truce in Ukraine remains fragile. The British Foreign Minister and Secretary of State John Kerry have been talking and they are talking about stronger sanctions against Russia.

Former New York Mayor Giuliani’s comment about Obama not loving America continues to get play. Not surprisingly, Rev. Al Sharpton is enraged while Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin commented that he really didn’t know whether Obama loved America or not. Walker is running for the Republican nomination for President.

Giuliani is no longer politically relevant and seems to be enjoying his moment, again, in the spotlight. He has no reason not to keep it up; he likes his name in lights. I agree with the White House on this one. It is sad.

The financial conundrum that is Greece continues to keep us on edge. A deal has been, apparently, reached.   In getting to this place, the Greek Prime Minister, Tsipras, has said: we won a battle, not the war.

Truer words were never said.

Tsipras has a lot to sell to the Greek public as the new deal, if it happens, has Greece still bowing to the Eurozone. It is a lifeline, not a solution.

Seeking a solution to a problem I didn’t know existed, Proctor and Gamble is selling off nearly a hundred brands in their portfolio, including Duracell Batteries, which will go to Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway next year.

This year is the 50th Anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination and hundreds gathered in New York to mark the moment.

There continues to be an exegesis of Brian Williams’ fall from grace. There will be an almost uncountable number of them written between now and the end of his suspension and, depending on what happens after that, countless more. The world is not being kind to Brian Williams and the comparisons to Edward R. Murrow have been unkind.

Outside it has grown dark. The jazz continues to play and I am near the end of this blog, for today.

It is predicted that the brutal cold will not be so brutal but that the snow will continue. Boston is a slow moving tragedy. Different from a hurricane, the snow has been probably as destructive to Boston as a hurricane would be to some cities but because it is slow moving, no one is noticing.

Tomorrow is another day. It’s the day of the Academy Awards. I am going to watch BIRDMAN and BOYHOOD this evening, the top contenders for the Best Picture Award.

Letter From New York 01 20 15 Having a good visit…

February 20, 2015

Train travel has been unpredictable today so to ensure that I am up in Hudson for dinner with my good friend, Paul Krich, I have moved my train up to the 3:15 Empire Service so that I will actually arrive in time for dinner.

I am sitting in the Acela Lounge in Penn Station waiting for my train, hoping that another of my very good friends, Robert Murray, will be making the journey with me. He needs to get home in time for a Soccer League Board Meeting. Always good company, his presence would be a boost but he might not make it until the 4:40. Last night we had dinner and drinks at Thai Market, having a good visit or, as my Australian friends would say, a good “chin wag.”

Waking this morning, it was blistering cold in New York with wind chills of minus eleven. And the heat didn’t seem to be working well last night so it was cold inside and out. I huddled under the covers, reading the Times and drinking coffee, took a long, hot shower and went out to brave the world.

When I reached Penn Station, I treated myself to a bowl of New England Clam Chowder and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc at Tracks Restaurant on the lower level and then came up to wait for my train.

In the background, CNN is on the television. They are reporting on three British schoolgirls who have apparently flown to Istanbul with the intention of crossing into Syria to join IS. Their parents are understandably frantic.

My heart goes out to them. I cannot imagine what it would feel like to wake up and find that your daughter has gone off to join IS.

IS has made an art form of their murders and have gained huge attention to them. Also very real is that everyday many are dying from barrel bombs being dropped by the Syrian Air Force, wretched weapons designed to do maximum civilian damage. But they have not gotten the attention that IS has gotten with its gruesome videos. Yesterday, I said they were clever with their messaging.

In breaking news, it appears the Eurozone has come to some sort of agreement with Greece, which is good news for everyone – until we lurch into the next Greek crisis. It may be a case of kicking the can down the road. I haven’t seen any details yet.

Yesterday, Rudy Giuliani declared that Obama doesn’t love America. It has become a bit of a case of “open mouth, insert foot.” Reactions have not been very good though Gov. Jindahl of Louisiana agrees, sort of.

Speaking of Obama, he was at the winter meeting of the Democratic Party, both mocking and criticizing Republicans, being relentlessly upbeat and energizing his party.

In Libya, 45 were killed in IS bombings. In Somalia, some government officials died while saying their prayers, killed by suicide bombers. More Muslims killing other Muslims.

Closer to home, the former First Lady of Virginia, Maureen McDonnell, was sentenced to twelve months and one day in jail. Her husband, the former Governor, was sentenced to more time than she was.

Brian Williams has resigned from the Board of the Medal of Honor Foundation and is not allowed to make public appearances during his suspension, confirmed by Bob Wright, former Chairman of NBCUniversal and close friend of Williams. A poll has indicated 52% of Americans think he should be given another chance while 40% think he should be canned.

Jeb Bush has hired a top-notch researcher, firming up convictions he is running for President.

SIM card maker, Gemalto, largest in the world has announced its SIM cards were hacked by US and UK intelligence services, a fact revealed in the mounds of documents that surfaced from Snowden. Gemalto wants some answers, not surprisingly.

Riding the train with me tonight is Brian Gallagher, the number 2 man at Amtrak. A gruff, blunt and honest man, I knew him from riding the Empire Corridor for a long time before I knew he was the number 2.

I suspect the train will arrive on time.

Letter From New York 01 13 15 Deciding for yourself…

February 13, 2015

On this Friday the 13th, I find myself in the Acela Lounge at Penn Station, warding off the freezing temperatures that have descended on the Northeast. Actually, I am waiting here to hear from my friend Paul, who may need some help from me after he has outpatient surgery today. He is having a stent put in his leg this afternoon. I am waiting to hear from him about going to his apartment, not far from Penn, to be with him after his surgery.

While Claverack will probably only get bitter cold today and tomorrow, the coastal areas of New England will be hammered again by snow, another foot added to the already record amounts that have fallen. Locally, the harsh winter has resulted in a road salt shortage and rationing has been started.

While a peace deal has been signed in Minsk, fighting is continuing in Ukraine and there is some skepticism that fighting will end when it is supposed to at midnight Saturday night. Ukraine has a slumping economy and has received a promise of $17.5 billion from the IMF to prop it up.

The negotiations to reach the agreement were difficult and “buckets of coffee” were drunk, according to the host, the President of Belarus. It was the first time in years any western leader had visited his country. He’s known as Europe’s last dictator. He met Angela Merkel with a small bouquet of flowers and seemed very pleased she and Hollande were there.

Probably not very pleased right now is President Cristina Kirchner of Argentina as a prosecutor has launched an investigation concerning her potential involvement in a cover-up regarding facts about a 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires of a synagogue in which 85 people were killed. Iran has been blamed, a statement they deny.

It is the latest twist in a bizarre case. The last prosecutor, Nisman, was found dead in his apartment the night before he was testify in the case. Supposedly a suicide, it is now being investigated as a potential murder. The case is riveting Argentina.

Another riveting scene is watching who will blink first in the Greek debt restructuring negotiations. Greece isn’t budging from its position of wanting a restructuring and European Finance Ministers are not moving from demanding that Greece honor the terms of the bailout. Particularly severe is Schaeuble of Germany, a formidable figure, in a wheelchair as a result of a 1990 assassination attempt.

The Boko Haram launched their first attack on Chad. The BBC reported that the savagery was severe. Soldiers had their throats cut and women were carried off as “war booty.” President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria is requesting American troops to fight Boko Haram.

In another chapter in a sorry week for media, David Carr, the well-respected media critic for the New York Times, collapsed last night in the Times’ newsroom and died. He had battled drug addiction in his younger years and had climbed out of that hole and become one of the most respected reporters in the country.

Brian Williams is reported to be considering an apology tour of the country after seeking counseling. As he considers his next moves, investigations are continuing into many comments that he made that are now doubted. Was he with Seal Team 6 as they flew into Baghdad? Did he actually shake the hand of Pope Paul II? Was he at the Brandenburg Gate the night the wall fell? He might need to wait to make that apology tour until he knows exactly all that he needs to apologize for.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of our Supreme Court is reported as having had a bit too much wine the night of the State of the Union address and drifted off during Obama’s speech. It made her seem so human.

Speaking of things human, the film version of Fifty Shades of Grey opens this weekend. The reviews I’ve read or heard are all over the place, from superb to terrible, beautifully acted to woodenly performed. One reviewer reported that at the end of the screening she attended, everyone began to giggle, probably from a combination of factors. If you are interested [and it is assumed a lot of people are going to be interested], you will probably have to rely on your own take.

Letter From New York 02 11 15 A bit of chaos here and there…

February 11, 2015

As I ride south into the city, the Hudson River to my right is ice bound, with bright light glittering off the frozen surface of the river. The journey into the city was precipitated by a couple of meetings, one of which has already been cancelled while I was boarding the train. My friend Rita’s plane from DC was cancelled and she is rushing to the train station to get the next train.

After many bad experiences, I am skeptical about the wisdom of doing anything but training between Washington and New York.

My train is bumping along as it works its way to New York. It arrived late in Hudson because of equipment trouble but only by thirty minutes. The equipment is suffering from the cold and hence the ride is rockier than usual. I can feel it in my back.

The world of television has been rocked in the last twenty-four hours.

Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show for the last fifteen years, announced yesterday that he would be departing the program this year, as early as July or as late as December, but he is leaving.

It is a double blow for Comedy Central, which also lost Stephen Colbert this year to CBS where he is taking over late night duties for David Letterman. The network has indicated The Daily Show will continue and there is scrambling to find a replacement for him.

Scrambling is also going on over at NBC. Steven Burke, CEO of NBCUniversal, paid a visit to Brian Williams yesterday and informed him that he was going to be suspended without pay for the next six months. It may be the beginning of the end of Williams’ career. Twitter has tweets that NBC is now looking into his expense reports and investigating the veracity of other stories that Mr. Williams has told about his in-field experiences.

As I write this, the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France are huddling in Minsk, Belarus, in an effort to find some political solution to the Ukrainian crisis. There are rumors of some progress, but sides still seem far apart. More than 5,300 have lost their lives. Somewhere between 1.2 million and 1.5 million have been made refugees.

The Russian Foreign Minister, Lavrov, has commented that there has been “noticeable progress.” Interpretation: Russia is getting closer to what it wants, I guess. Ms. Merkel of Germany holds out slim hope but will continue to walk the diplomatic path in honor of the civilians who have died.

Hundreds of refugees from Africa are believed to have died in an attempt to reach Italy, joining the thousands who have already drowned in the last years, trying to cross the Mediterranean, hoping to find a better life in Europe.

Three Muslim adult students were gunned down in Chapel Hill, SC. It may have been a hate crime or it may have been a parking dispute. Either way, a tragedy.

Obama has asked for war authorization against ISIS. He used interesting phrasing, with the plan barring “enduring offensive combat operations.” It is to last three years. Speaker Boehner quickly criticized the plan and indicated there would be Congressional changes.

A little over three years ago, the cruise liner Costa Concordia ran aground off an Italian island and 32 people lost their lives. Today, just moments ago, its Captain, Francesco Schettino, was found guilty of manslaughter. He faces 26 years in prison. He was also accused, and found guilty of, abandoning his passengers to save himself.

It was said that when the Costa Concordia hit the rocks, there was chaos. In Alabama today there is a bit of judicial chaos. The Supreme Court refused to put a stay on gay marriage in Alabama and that should have been the end of it. But gay couples can only get married in parts of Alabama today as some judges refuse to carry out ceremonies. An Alabama female minister was arrested on disorderly conduct charges after offering to conduct a same sex wedding. She is in jail.

Alabama has a long history of fighting orders from the Federal Courts. It will be interesting to watch how all this plays out.

Far enough south now, the Hudson River flows freely at the center. The train is approaching New York City. The equipment, however, has not thawed out and I will be glad to end the bumpy ride.