Posts Tagged ‘Hollande’

Letter From New York 11 14 15 The Real Great War to end all wars…

November 15, 2015

Paris. Hollande. IS. Daesh. Bruce Thiesen. Christopher Hitchens. Hitler. Stalin. Mussolini. Afghanistan.  Alexander the Great. Russia. Viet Nam. Democratic Debate. Jihadi John. Marco Rubio.  Fox News. Libya. Pope Francis.  World War III. Genghis Khan. Fred and Ginger.  The Great Depression. The War to end all wars.

When I finished blogging yesterday, the body count in Paris was below thirty.  Today, when I woke and reached for my iPhone to check the news, 129 were dead, 350+ injured with 99 of them in critical condition.

Friends of mine, Chuck and Lois, have an apartment in Paris and spend a good part of every year there; thankfully they were not in Paris yesterday. 

All morning I felt grim, unbelieving and so very deeply saddened.

Last night’s event has touched the world in a way nothing has since 9/11.

Hollande has all but declared war on IS or Daesh, using the Arabic acronym for the organization.  Countries around the world have lit their most important buildings in the red, white and blue colors of the French flag.

There is the weight of tragedy in the air.  The events were on the mind of ever thinking person I know.

Bruce Thiesen, a fellow blogger, posted this quote from Christopher Hitchens:  This is an enemy for life as well as an enemy of life.

Truer words were never spoken.  It all harkens back to the horrors of World War II, of men like Hitler and Mussolini and Stalin. 

The events of last night have infected my day as they have for everyone I know.  It came to me as I was shopping, for tomorrow is my day to do coffee hour after the 10:30 service, that Hollande is correct; we are at war.

I’ve felt that since 2003, when we invaded Iraq. We are at war. We have participated in wars without really involving the American public.  We fought but the public was to go on with their normal lives, shopping and eating at restaurants and not think about war.

I think that was a mistake.  In some way, shape or form, we should all be engaged if our men and women are fighting.

We should be actively supporting them in some way. 

It’s a favorite rant of mine.  I wanted to be asked to sacrifice if they were being asked to potentially make the ultimate sacrifice.

Now, we are years into this.  Afghanistan is our longest war ever, a place that has bedeviled military leaders since Alexander the Great, the place that was Russia’s Viet Nam, a place the British couldn’t hold at the height of their power.

Tomorrow there will be another Democratic Debate.  Really?  I’m exhausted already and can’t imagine all the campaigning yet to come.  But because of Paris, the debate will be focused more on terrorism and how the candidates would respond.

Jihadi John, the British terrorist who beheaded a number of men, is apparently dead in a drone attack.  On Friday, the head of IS in Libya is believed to have died in an air attack.

At the gym today, the TV at my treadmill was turned to Fox News and I actually didn’t change the channel.  I wanted to know what they were saying.  They brought on Marco Rubio who decried events and blamed them on Obama and said as President he would take the fight to them.

Yes, I do think that will happen.  Probably right now we’ll be led by France which, in righteous anger, will attack Daesh in every way it can.

More war.  Pope Francis suggested we are fighting World War III now, in bits and pieces.  He may be right.

Rubio said it was a “civilizational war” and he is not wrong. 

IS wants to destroy the West.  It hates our civilization with a passion and a fervor not seen, I suspect, since Genghis Khan who swept all before him before he and his Empire became dust in the wind.

It is dark.  Floodlights illuminate my beloved creek.  I am going to make myself a martini and watch a movie that, I hope, will transport me beyond the ugly realities of the day, the way Fred and Ginger lifted the hearts of Americans during the Great Depression.

We may well be now fighting the real Great War, the war to end all wars.

Letter From New York 07 10 15 From Hudson to Greece to Ukraine

July 10, 2015

For the most part, today has been sunny and warm, not too humid, the sun slipping in and out between the clouds, more out than in. I’m sitting at the dining room table at the cottage, looking out at all the green that surrounds the cottage.

For two days, I didn’t write a Letter From New York. I had a feeling I had run out of things to say or that what I had to say wasn’t all that important. Perhaps it was just a case of emotional inertia but as the afternoon wore on today, I wanted to put fingers to keyboard and see words appear on the electronic white page on my MacBook Air.

Waking early, I had coffee, scanned the Times [NY], dashed off a few emails and then ran errands. I picked up prescriptions, I dropped off shirts at the laundry, went to Lowe’s, had the car washed, filled it with gas, all pedestrian things that need to be done, usually Saturday chores but done today because I was home.

Last night was my first night at the cottage in twelve days and I reveled in being home and in my own bed, surrounded by the coziness and my books. I finished reading “My Townie Heart” by Diana Sperrazza; I sent off a congratulatory email.

The surveyor came and I paid him for the work he did on seeing if can get me from needing flood insurance. We chatted for a while and then I went off to mail some things to my cousins and headed into Hudson for a long, leisurely lunch with Peter Spear, who does market research. We haven’t sat down in years and it was good and fun.

As I did my errands, I heard the cheering on the radio as the Confederate Flag came down in South Carolina. There were eulogies for Omar Sharif, who passed away today in Cairo, best remembered for his role as “Doctor Zhivago.” It is in that role that I first remember him, a breathtaking film that made me curious about the period in Russian history when the Empire gave way to the Soviet Union.

The markets were buoyant today, as it appeared to many that a Greek deal would be done. The Germans are still not convinced but we will see what the weekend brings. There will be more meetings. Greece is taking up a huge amount of Europe’s political bandwidth.

There is an argument to be made that Greece today is worse off than the US during the Great Depression. Then the US joblessness rate topped out at 26%. Greece is at 28% now and it could conceivably go higher.

The deal Tsipras is selling to the Greeks is essentially the one they rejected last week but it feels, in the news reports, like they will go along with it.

Dylann Roof, who allegedly killed nine in Charleston, SC, bought a gun to commit the deed. It was revealed today by the FBI that he should not have been able to buy it; he should not have passed the background check. He slipped through the system.

Prevented from falling through the system was a young, homeless seven-year-old Filipino boy. Photographed studying on a stool by the light of a local McDonald’s, the photo went viral and aid is being delivered to he and his mother, enough money to get him through college. He wants to grow up and be a policeman.

Tunisia has declared a state of emergency to deal with terrorist threats. Some tourists are leaving, cancelling trips to the country and at least one cruise line is not going to be calling there this year and next.

Shanghai, the largest city in the world by population, is battening down the hatches in advance of Typhoon Chan-hom, which will be upon the city tomorrow. While not a huge storm it is the first time in near 65 years that a storm this size has hit Shanghai.

Angela Merkel of Germany and Hollande of France, when not dealing with the Greeks, are putting pressure on the President of Ukraine, Poroshenko, to begin giving autonomy, promised in the Minsk Accords, to the rebels in the East, something he is dragging his feet on doing. Merkel and Hollande are becoming very blunt about it, something that usually doesn’t happen in diplomacy.

The sun is setting in the west, light is filtering through the trees and I will soon head down to Hudson for a light dinner at the Dot. It’s been a lovely day.

It was good to write again. Hope you enjoyed it..

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 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 12 15 A very interesting week…

February 12, 2015

From Washington, DC to battered Boston, the east coast is being plunged into a dose of bitter winter cold. The temperatures will drop into minus territory tonight and tomorrow and Sunday. At this very moment, the sun is flashing down on the snow-covered drive. As I’ve said before: this is the coldest winter I’ve experienced in the fourteen years I’ve been in the cottage.

The breaking news this morning was that a ceasefire has been announced for Sunday in Ukraine. The pact was announced in three separate news conferences. One was held by Putin, another by Ukraine’s Poroshenko and the third by Merkel of Germany and Hollande of France. That there were three press conferences rather than one has caused observers to already speculate that this is an agreement fraught with trouble.

Already it is known as Minsk II and Poroshenko has announced it will be difficult to implement. Ukraine said that even while the marathon talks were happening more Russian heavy armor entered eastern Ukraine in advance of the stand down.

Minsk II is not too similar to last fall’s Minsk Protocol, which was violated within weeks of signing. Regardless, markets responded well and Merkel and Hollande cautiously celebrated.

The West has made it relatively clear that it will not use military means in Ukraine while Putin plays that hand continuously. His economy may be shattering but he has got a good army on the ground.

While I was in New York yesterday, Bob Simon of CBS News was killed in an auto crash on New York’s West Side Away, near 30th, a spot I have passed many a time. One of my first memories of a network news correspondent was of him, reporting from Viet Nam. He was on one of the last helicopters out of Saigon before it fell. He survived many a war zone; it seems ironic he would pass in an accident on the West Side Highway.

It is another marking point in an extraordinary week for news organizations. Brian Williams is on suspension, Jon Stewart is stepping down and Bob Simon has died.

In news that is hardly happy and seems incomprehensible as I look out at nearly six feet of snow piled outside my window but droughts in the continental US are predicted to become incredibly severe in the second half of this century, the worst in a thousand years.

Judicial disarray reigns for yet another day in Alabama over same sex marriages. A minority of counties are obeying the Federal rulings, a majority are not or are just not marrying anyone, gay or straight. The Probate Judges in Alabama are the ones who give out marriage licenses and the one in Mobile today was ordered to get going and give them out but that ruling was for one specific jurisdiction and it is unclear whether that will influence other counties. Probate judges are declaring themselves caught between two courts.

Ah, sweet Alabama!

And while we are visiting issues in the South, three Muslim students, shot execution style by their neighbor, were buried today. Supposedly it was about parking spaces though Keith Ellison, Democratic Congressman from Minnesota and first Muslim elected to Congress, doubts that’s all there was to it.

A labor dispute is closing West Coast ports for four days. Each side blames the other, of course, but ships will be floating out at sea unable to offload their cargoes. The father of a friend of mine was bankrupted in such a situation many years ago.

Ashton Carter has been named the new Defense Secretary. It was widely expected he would be. Though President Obama’s nominee, he is widely liked by the Senate. The nominee for Attorney General has not been so lucky. Her nomination was not voted on today. The Senate doesn’t convene tomorrow nor is it in session next week.

The sun has almost set. The deer have yet to make their appearance. I have begun to think that it is timed to a moment when the sun is setting. I expect them soon. I have already started the cold-water faucet in the kitchen dripping against the bitter cold of tonight.

As I finish this, my brother is landing in Honduras to begin his two-week trip giving medical care. I will keep him constantly in my thoughts.

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.

Letter From New York 02 07 15 Before the storm…

February 7, 2015

Soft jazz has been playing in the background almost all day. It is still chill out and we’re facing another winter storm, promising another foot of snow and brutal cold. Feeling a bit of cabin fever, I went out for a walk around my circle and then went and put in a few groceries in case the storm is even worse than they are predicting.

Grey and rather depressing, I found the music helped alleviate my mood, which was also brightened by a spontaneous text message from my godson, telling me he was thinking of me and that he loved me. It made the grey day bright and cheery inside me.

Sitting here with a fresh cup of tea, I have been reading the day’s news. My usual routine was broken this morning and I didn’t have a chance to read the NY Times as young Nick was coming to help me much earlier today than he normally arrives on Saturday. We piled in a stock of wood in case the electricity goes so I can heat the house with the Franklin stove, made our weekly trip down to the Transfer Station [aka “the dump”] and cleaned up all the marks we had left hauling in the wood.

While I slept last night, suicide bombers blew themselves up in Baghdad, taking at least 40 others with them and injuring dozens more. ISIS claimed responsibility for one of them, near a packed restaurant, while the others have not been claimed by any group. It is another case of Sunni against Shia.

Jordan has escalated its attacks on ISIS and is striking them both in Syria and in Iraq. One Jordanian official says they will continue until ISIS is destroyed. The UAE, which had suspended its bombings after the capture of the now dead Jordanian pilot, has now rejoined the fight and is basing a squadron of F-16’s in Jordan.

Meanwhile, in Mosul, one of its two stronghold cities, messages are being blared from the city’s mosques that any family with more than one son should give one up to become a jihadi. Apparently, an underground has formed in Mosul and is attacking ISIS. Interesting.

In Africa, the Boko Haram are also trying to carve out an Islamic State, and are being challenged by troops from the African Union. Nigeria has been mostly unsuccessful in combating them but its neighboring states are committing troops to the effort. They have had better luck.

Ukraine festers, despite the efforts of Merkel and Hollande. Europe is dividing over what to do next and it may well be that Europe is now “too civilized” to do too much. They are also heavily dependent on Russian energy supplies and there is still some winter left to this year and more winters to face. Some are calling for the US to make more natural gas available to Europe so that the EU will feel, perhaps, a little more able to stand up to Russia.

The UK newspaper, The Telegraph, had an article today that questioned whether Putin was strategic, cunning or just plain mad. It is a question worthy of asking. His actions seem to defy logic, which is another reason it is hard to deal with him.

Feeling he has become the news rather than just reporting on it, Brian Williams will not be appearing on The Nightly News for at least the next few days. The storm around him has been getting bigger, even since yesterday. There are unconfirmed rumors that Tom Brokaw is badgering for his dismissal amid other reports that Brokaw has known for years that the story Williams was telling was untrue but that he had done nothing. It is also being reported that some time ago, NBC News told Williams to quit telling the story. He didn’t and now he is in the cross hairs of news organizations all over the world. Ouch.

The days are growing longer. Even a couple of weeks ago, it would be almost dark by now, as I sit finishing my blog for the day. It causes a smile.

Now I’m off to prepare to go to a friend’s for dinner, a good night, hopefully, before the storm begins.

Letter From New York 02 06 15 Strange Patterns…

February 6, 2015

It is that time of day when the golden light of the setting sun flashes across the mounds of snow lining my drive. It looks inviting but the temperature is very low, with a wind chill pushing it down even further. It was a day to be huddled inside. Even with the heat up and a sweater and a fleece jacket on, there is a chilly feeling to the cottage. When I finish writing, I am going to build a fire and begin prepping dinner.

As I usually do before sitting down to write, I scan the trending stories on Google News, trying to catch up with all that is happening out there in the world, far from the tranquil spot where I sit.

By now, Chancellor Merkel of Germany and President Hollande of France must be on their way home from Moscow, where they were to meet with Putin today. Meanwhile, while they were in Moscow, a truce was called and buses were sent to evacuate more people from the contested zone. As of now, 1.2 million have fled the fighting in Ukraine, helping to add to the global refugee crisis. It has been reported that there are more refugees now than at any time since the end of World War II.

NBC has launched an internal investigation of Brian Williams, the face of NBC News, now accused of inflating events in Iraq in 2003. It is also now being claimed he may have also “misremembered” things that happened to him during Hurricane Katrina. His scandal is growing and there are even a few of his peers who are suggesting he had best resign.

ISIS has issued a report that the Jordanian bombing of Raqqa killed an American hostage, a young woman by the name of Kayla Mueller. She was working with Syrian refugees when she was kidnapped. Other than the statement, there has been no verification. It maybe that the Jordanian attack gave ISIS cover to announce the death of Ms. Mueller. The beheading or immolation of a female hostage could have been a nightmare for ISIS. They are doing these terrible things to garner attention but they have a sometimes canny sense of what they can or cannot do.

Though they seem to have gone too far with the immolation of the Jordanian pilot. The backlash they are receiving is louder and more strident than anything before and they have now an entire Islamic nation enraged.

Enraged at Obama is what the Christian right is today after his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. He reminded the audience that Christians, too, have had blood on their hands over the course of history. He mentioned the Crusades, the Inquisition and Jim Crow. And the response from the right was thunderous. But Obama has no more campaigns to run and is saying what he thinks. While he was correct, it is not actually current. Christianity hasn’t been fighting crusades for a long time and the horrific behavior of the Colonial era is sliding into the past as Christians are now emerging as the most persecuted group in the world. They have moved from the persecutors to the persecuted in a few generations.

But the ones who are suffering the most, I suspect, are Muslims. The rift between Sunni and Shia is enormous and is used to justify a lot of suicide bombings.

One of the questions that often asked is why is religion so often the cause for violence and not for healing?

I don’t have an answer. I do know that historically religion has been at the center of most of human conflict. My God doesn’t like your God so I am going to kill you. It’s a strange pattern. Jesus wouldn’t have agreed but over the centuries lots and lots and lots of human beings have lost their lives to other human beings with a different interpretation of Jesus.

A similar thing seems to be going on within Islam.

Ah, the sun has almost set. There is a pink glow to the west. Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Let us hope that the pink glow presages a good day tomorrow.

Letter From New York 01 05 15 Pays to be honest…

February 5, 2015

There is a soft, golden light piercing through the trees as the sun begins to set in the west. After several dark days, the sun was out in all its winter brilliance today. As I sit down to write, the temperature is going down with the sun and tonight will be the coldest one of the winter so far. Predictions, without wind chill, are for minus seven. It will be another night of letting the cold-water faucet in the kitchen drip through the night to avoid a freezing of the pipes.

It’s been a busy day, mostly inside busy with emails and conference calls, a few errands that were run and now my time to write. In the world of good intentions, I intended to bundle up and go for a walk but seemed to run out of time to fit that in before leaving for a dinner tonight with friends at Coyote Flaco, a little Mexican restaurant up the road. It is owned by an Ecuadorian and is staffed by folks from Guatemala. The food is good.

As the sun sets, so does the career of Amy Pascal, Co-Chairman of Sony Pictures. She is departing her job but as these things happen in Hollywood, she will have a production deal at her old company, a soft landing after all the leaked emails damaged her reputation in the Sony hacking event of last fall.

Perusing stories online today, I found one from the Telegraph in the UK positing that Europe is “too civilized” to take on Putin. There are more high-level meetings happening in Kiev. Angela Merkel of Germany and Hollande of France were in Kiev today and are flying on to Moscow tomorrow to have a sit down with Putin, who will probably nod as he listens but will go on doing what he wants.

The Russian voters are standing with him; they have a history of standing by their besieged leaders and they are used to suffering after centuries of it under the Tsars and the Communists. Even though they are buckling from the collapse in oil prices and the effects of Western sanctions, the majority of Russians are standing by their man. And he seems quite determined to either take part of Ukraine or have part of it as a vassal state.

Dreams of empire dance in Putin’s head. NATO is putting rapid response forces in a number of former Communist countries that feel threatened by Russia’s aggression, reassuring countries like Moldova that they chose the right side at the end of the Cold War.

In the hot war world, Jordan launched an air assault on the city of Raqqa and other ISIS targets today in retaliation for the gruesome murder of their pilot in January. They promise more. ISIS apparently was thinking that the death of Moaz al-Kasaesbeh would turn Jordan from continuing on with US led coalition bombing them.

They were wrong.

Preaching peace, the President and the Dalai Lama were both at the National Prayer Breakfast in DC but they were not “together.” Acknowledging the Dalai Lama though, Obama irked the Chinese.

That other great proponent of all things peaceful, Pope Francis, will become the first Pope to address Congress this fall when he visits the United States.

In the category of it pays to be honest, Brian Williams, NBC News Anchor, apparently had told the world he had been on a helicopter that was hit during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He was corrected by the crew of the stricken helicopter; the newsman had not been onboard. Apologizing for his “confusion” Williams has damaged his credibility and has been made fun of by jokesters who have shown him broadcasting from the moon.

One man who was aboard the group of helicopters with Williams just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Whatever.”

The light has faded and I am leaving soon to go to Coyote Flaco and have something different than my usual chicken fajitas. I am going to do some culinary exploring.

Letter From New York 01 11 15 While they marched in Paris…

January 11, 2015

Riding on Amtrak back to the city, the Hudson River is more heavily iced than it was just a few days ago. Once again, it is steel grey as is the whole world, grey and overcast, not bathed in the golden light of yesterday.

On the train I usually ride in the café car; it has been years since the trains running between Albany and New York have had an active café car. Sitting with me are two friends I have made through the train, Kathleen and Arthur, who have a small farm on the west side of the Hudson, outside of Catskill.

We met on the train some years ago, taking the same Sunday train back into the city. We had a tradition of bringing along leftovers from the weekend and making a picnic of the ride into New York. With food and a good bottle of wine, the trip always evaporated.

Then I started not going back on Sundays, waiting until Monday mornings and, while not riding the Sunday picnic train, we have remained friends and we have partied since off the train. We’re all headed back early this Sunday because we have dinners in the city.

Arthur is headed to Paris next week for a culinary tour of the City of Lights. Naturally our talk turned to Charlie Hebdo and the march that took place there today. Millions marched for solidarity; lead by the French President Hollande, who was joined by British Prime Minister David Cameron and Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany. Also there was Netanyahu of Israel as well as Abbas of Palestine, the President of Ukraine and the Foreign Minister of Russia, all putting their differences aside long enough to join this march, equal parts of sorrow and defiance. With no speeches, just presence.

Back in Germany, Hamburger Morgenpost printed some of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons and was firebombed.

Some are saying that this event has ripped the soul of France the way 9/11 seared the soul of the United States, a fundamental change occurring in the fabric of society.

Obama is calling for a “Counterterrorism Summit” is Washington in February.

Ah, the clouds have parted and some sunlight slips through, causing flecks of light to bounce off the icy waters of the Hudson.

It is impossible to know where the road is leading at anytime. But the situation we face with radical Islam seems particularly knotty. Is it, as Arthur suggested earlier, a result of poverty? Or does radical Islam offer a route away from oppressive governments? Or is it that we are seeing the beginning of an Islamic Reformation which promises to be as violent as the Christian Reformation? Any of these is probably too simple an answer for the most complex question of our time and reality is a mixture of all of these and more.

Each day will be played out and we will move irrevocably into the future and the future will unfold. In the meantime, three million took to the streets in Paris in some effort to express feelings that must seem inchoate.

When 9/11 happened, the streets of New York were eerily quiet and the world seemed in a daze. It will be interesting to speak with Arthur when he returns to see if Paris is the same.