Posts Tagged ‘Department of Homeland Security’

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 03 01 15 Waiting, expectantly…

March 1, 2015

Classical music, mostly Mozart, plays in the background. As I left for church this morning, a dusting of snow was falling and then it stopped. None falls now but we are predicted to have another three to six inches tonight.

Church was followed by a long and lazy brunch at the Red Dot; folks from Christ Church populated the table. It seemed a good third of the restaurant were folks who had been to the 10:30 service there.

We talked of many things. Some church related. Some not. I met new people, always a nice thing. As it became 3:00, I had to bid my adieu and head home so that I might get today’s blog written and still have enough time to prepare dinner. I am planning a salad followed by chicken pasta with vodka sauce.

Simple but hearty, I hope.

Simple is not a word used for the world today.

As I type, Netanyahu is flying toward the US, with some signs of tensions easing as seen by a statement from Secretary of State Kerry that he was “welcome” to speak in the US. But half of US voters, according to polls, think that the speech should have gone through Obama.

Back in Israel, 180 former military and security officers held a press conference denouncing Netanyahu’s actions, declaring that the speech was making things worse for Israel. Some of the founding generals of the group, Commanders for Israel’s Security, are legends in Israel.

Netanyahu is sparking controversy, at home and abroad.

In Russia, between 30,000 and 70,000 people marched in remembrance of Boris Nemtsov, a Putin critic, who was shot down on Friday night. There are a number of Putin critics who have been eternally silenced in the last decade. Putin has called this murder “vile” and promises to find who did it.

We will follow this.

There is now video which seems to show the three British girls who left home to join IS, have actually crossed over into Syria. Nearly 60 young British Muslims have left the UK and made the journey to Syria. Back in Britain their parents are heart broken after the girls did not heed their appeals to return home.

Iraq is reportedly about to commit to an offensive campaign to reclaim Tikrit, hometown of Saddam Hussein. At the same time a few of the Assyrian Christians that were captured by IS have been released. No reason has been given for their release though it has been noted by the press that all of them were over fifty while another report states they paid money to a Sharia Court for freedom. In the meantime, another two hundred Assyrian Christians remain in the hands of IS.

In Venezuela, several Americans have been detained for espionage and a number of American politicians, including George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, as well as some sitting Congressman, have been banned from travel to Venezuela. President Maduro is accused by his critics of attempting to distract his country from a collapsing economy. Oil, the country’s economic backbone, has seen huge price declines in the last six months.

Down in the Washington, DC, area CPAC, a conservative political group met, and in their straw poll, chose Rand Paul over everyone else. At this conference, Scott Walker of Wisconsin said, “If I can take on a 100,000 protestors, I can take on the world.” Some took it that he was equating Union Protestors with IS and he has been having to defend his remarks, telling folks he was talking about leadership and not making a parallel between the two.

Scott Walker was number two in the CPAC straw poll.

Speaking of DC, a weeklong bill was passed that funds the Department of Homeland Security but there seems to be no long-term solution on the table. This is something to be watched this week.

I am watching the weather outside my window. The snow was supposed to have started in earnest four hours ago. It isn’t here yet and I am hoping it misses us. My snow tolerance is nearly exhausted.

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 02 23 15 Any shame or guilt?

February 23, 2015

Ah, the joys of the bitter cold. Just as I was headed to Amtrak to catch my train, I received a text message alerting me my train would be at least ninety minutes late and I would thus miss the conference I was scheduled to attend this afternoon in the city.

Thankfully, I can partially make up for it by the fact a good friend is being ousted from his office early today so it can be painted, so we will get together for a late lunch, early cocktail or a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or some combination thereof.

Feeling rather on the low side last night, I ended up sleeping instead of watching the Oscars so my only experience of it was this morning, reading about it online and in the NY Times. The Wrap did a very funny montage of moments from this Awards season, which seems to have gone on forever this year.

And, not unexpectedly, the Oscars are the top story this morning, everyone weighing in on the good and bad moments. I missed them all. I wish I had been able to see in real time Patricia Arquette’s remarks for winning Best Supporting Actress. She addressed gender equality in Hollywood. I must look for the video of it.

As of this moment, the world stage is mostly a retread of yesterday’s news.

The ceasefire in Ukraine has yet to take hold; Germany is very worried. Everyone should be worried.

The families of three young British schoolgirls who appear to have departed for Syria via Istanbul have yet to be found; their families continue to plead with them to return.

Potential Presidential Contender, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, was at the White House last night for a dinner. He took a selfie with his son and posted it. The response wasn’t kind. Governor Walker was accused of looking a bit tipsy, if not as mashed as Johnny Depp was once during this Awards season giving out an Award. Depp had trouble reading from the teleprompter.

The dinner Walker was at with his son, Alex, was for the National Governors Association, jokingly called the National Association of Aspiring Presidents.

US Malls are stepping up their security measures since the Al-Shabaab threat against them, particularly the Mall of America in Minnesota and the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada. The Head of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, has asked all to be extra vigilant.

Of course, the Department of Homeland Security faces defunding this month unless a compromise is reached. Congress is unhappy with President Obama’s Executive Order on Immigration and DHS is caught in the crossfire.

Ah, the joys of politics.

A political figure in Egypt has been sentenced to five years in prison. Alaa Abdel Fattah, a renowned blogger in Egypt, was found guilty of organizing an illegal demonstration and “thuggery,” among other things. He and hundreds of others who have protested have been sent off to prison. This was a retrial for him; the first time he was sentenced to fifteen years. More than twenty others were sentenced along with him, receiving sentences of three to fifteen years.

At the same time, Egyptian President al-Sisi is saying that he would release wrongly detained young men.

Egypt is also calling for a Pan-Arab force to battle terrorist groups, not to invade but to defend.

In an event that is deeply disturbing, chilling and troubling, a suicide bomber in Nigeria killed five, including herself and wounding another forty-six. The bomber was a child, a girl, perhaps as young as seven. It is believed the lovely Boko Haram is behind this event.

As I sit on the train, watching the ice clogged Hudson slide by, I wonder if the poor child had any idea of what she was doing, what was being asked of her, and if the ones within Boko Haram who directed her, had any sense of guilt and shame about what they were doing?