Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

Letter From Claverack 03/02/2017 From Saba to a Trump Speech…

March 3, 2017

It has been about ten days since I’ve written; I just went back and looked.  Last time, I was on Saba, writing when I wasn’t able to sleep.  Tonight, I am back at my dining room table, floodlights on, looking out over the creek, having just returned from Coyote Flaco with Pierre, sharing chicken fajitas.

When I reached the cottage this afternoon, I felt I’d been away for a week, at least.  Monday morning, I went down to DC for some meetings for the Miller Center on the Presidency and then to New York last night to have a wonderful dinner with my friends, David and Annette Fox.  It’s a quarterly event; we gather at their marvelous UWS apartment, order Indian and catch up on our lives.

It is very hygge.  As was the dinner party I gave last Friday night for Fayal Greene, her husband, David, Ginna and Don Moore, Lionel and Pierre.  Leek soup, sautéed scallops in a brown butter sauce, and carrots in a lemony oil garlic sauce, with a baked polenta to die for, followed by a flourless chocolate cake provided by Ginna and Don, via David the baker.

img_1681

It was an extraordinary evening.

And I, at least, need evenings like this to keep me sane in these extraordinary times.

On Tuesday evening, in Washington, after an early dinner with my friends Matthew and Anne, which followed drinks with my ex-partner and his now fiancé, I watched the address to Congress by our President, Donald Trump.

To the great relief of almost the entire world, he did not go off the rails and sounded presidential.  It was, Tuesday night, all about the delivery.  Wednesday morning people started to parse what he said.  Even the conservative writers that I read, and I do read some, found a lot of flaws with the speech.

Short on specifics.

Fact checkers found a lot of fault, pointing out Trump claimed as victories some things which had been in play for a year at some corporations.  Ford isn’t keeping production in the US because of Trump; they are pulling back on their Mexican plans because those plants would have built small cars and people aren’t buying them.  They’re buying gas guzzlers because gas is cheapish again.

When talking with David and Annette, I said that if Trump had not held it together last night, his presidency would have begun to unravel.  He would actually be President but, in reality, his claim to power would have begun collapsing.  Lots of people on his side of the aisle are slightly unhinged by his behavior.  McCain and Graham are frankly, I think, apoplectic.

And he held it together and while he should have been able to take a victory lap, Wednesday morning brought the revelation that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had said in confirmation meetings he had not met with any Russians in the run-up to the election, actually had two meetings with the Russian Ambassador, one in his office on Capitol Hill.

Republicans are excusing while Democrats and some Republicans are accusing.

This is a wild ride and I’ve never seen anything like it.

Sessions has since recused himself from all investigations regarding anything Russian but there are those on both sides of the aisle who smell blood in the water.

While we were having political meltdowns, Amazon’s vaulted cloud computing world went offline yesterday for 4 hours and 17 minutes because of a typo in a command.  OOPS.

It’s a little scary.  150,000 websites were affected.  Amazon is the king of cloud storage and that’s a big oops for the King.  I would not have wanted to be the head of that division yesterday.

And, before Tuesday’s Trump speech, we had the foll der wall of the biggest Oscar mistake in history.  First “La La Land” was announced as Best Picture but it really was “Moonlight.”  Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were humiliated and PwC, the accountants, were more than humiliated.  They handed out a wrong envelope.

OOPS.

When it happened, I was safely in the arms of Morpheus, having strange dreams of Mike Bloomberg dating the pastor of my church, Mother Eileen.

Snap Inc. had a very successful opening on the market today; it was the biggest initial offering since Facebook and they have a rocky road to travel and they are a force to be reckoned with and it will be wonderful to see how it plays out.  The next Facebook? Or the next troubled tech company, which is where Twitter is today.

It’s time for me to say goodnight.

By hygge.  Regardless of your political persuasion, it will help us all get through.

 

 

 

Letter From Claverack 10 18 2016 On the cusp…

October 18, 2016

The day is diminishing; the sunset flickers through the turning leaves, a panorama of burnished gold in the west.  Classical music plays in the background and a soft wind is blowing through this, the last great weather day we will probably have until spring unfolds over Claverack Creek.  It was 86 degrees today with a cloudless sky and a fall wind in a warm day.

Once I recall a day like this when I was very young.  It is the kind of day that holds intimations of immortality.  Tonight’s sunset reminds me of the brilliant ones I witnessed on trips to Santorini, up at Franco’s Bar, poised over the caldera, thinking that in the sunset I understood the hold Greek myth has had over us for twenty-five centuries or more.

Once, at Franco’s, I wrote a poem on that and now have no idea where it is.  But I remember the moment, sitting there, pen scratching in my notebook as the golden sun turned the waters in the caldera its ripe color.

We are in the cusp of fall and summer has reached out to hold us one day more in its warm embrace, harkening us to remember its feel so we will wait, patiently, for its return in another new year.

2017

Who would have thought? Certainly in my youth I never thought that year would see me inhabit it.  Yet chances are I’ll be here when it comes marching in or crawling in or bursting upon us.

Soon there will be an election and someone new will move into the White House.  If it is Hillary, she’ll have been there but in a very different role now than then.  If it is Donald Trump, it will, perchance, signal a new and different age in our political history.

Time will tell.  Tomorrow is the next debate and I will watch, though not waiting breathlessly for it.  But I will watch.  It is “must see” TV for me this season.

The tree tops are swaying in the wind; the burnished gold has become the color of smoky topaz.  Twilight is descending.

Iraqi troops are marching toward Mosul, meeting, as expected, fierce resistance from IS.  Some Iraqis, in a scene that reminded me of tales of our Civil War, went onto a mountain side to watch the battle unfold beneath them.

IS intends to hold Mosul at any cost and if it loses it, to make it a humanitarian disaster.  The word that crosses my mind as I type is “barbarian.”

Iraqis remaining in the city have become bolder in their resistance of late to IS, supplying Iraq with vital information.  IS is killing anyone found attempting to leave the city.

When I was with the Internet start-up, Sabela Media, Yahoo was the industry behemoth.

Its revenue declined again this quarter and Verizon is asking for a reduction in price to buy it because of the hacking scandal.

Because they were known as bullies in the early years, I have always found it hard to be empathic though it is sorry to see a once great company slowly self-immolate.  And from people I know who are dealing with them currently, some within Yahoo just can’t accept what is happening now.  Ostriches with their heads in the sand…

Dark has descended and I am sitting at the table on the deck, with candlelight for illumination, listening to the classical music but also listening to the sounds of woodland creatures making their noises.

It is very special tonight.  The world is swinging in its orbit, momentous things are happening and as they are happening, there are the sounds of birds in the night, classical music and, because of them, a murmur of hope for the future.

 

 

 

 

Letter From Claverack, New York 08 23 2016 Generous souls…

August 24, 2016

It is later in the evening than I normally write; I did a roundtrip to the city today.  There were a couple of meetings and then I turned around and returned to the cottage.  It is dark.  I have turned on the floodlights so I can see the creek glitter with their light.  The trees are silhouetted by the light, green and verdant.  Nights like this are ones I love, with the floodlights giving an eerie beauty to what I see in the day.

Earlier today I had a long and good conversation with Sarah, who is my oldest friend.  We have known each other since we were three and except for one brief period have been a close part of each other’s lives.  She is one of the most loving and caring women I have known in my life and has always been that way.

In 7th grade, when Sister Jeron knocked me on the back of the head with a Gregorian Hymnal, humiliating me in front of our class, Sarah turned up that evening with one of her brothers and we went sledding down the hill by our house.  She knew I was hurting and came to help take the hurt away.  I remember that night as if it were yesterday.

Since I last wrote not much has changed in the world.  Aleppo is still a horror show.  Omran, the child in the photo, still haunts my dreams.

There are bombings hither and thither.  A Turkish wedding was destroyed by a suicide bomber who may have been no more than fourteen.  It was not the only bombing but it seems the most tragic with a child being used as a weapon.

Trump is attempting to moderate his tone and I hope it is too late.  Hillary is caught in the crossfire of the Foundation and her emails, which probably will never go away.  Even if she wins the Presidency, the Republicans will be chasing those emails and Benghazi into the next century.

The state of our politics this year is deplorable.  While discouraged, I remain hopeful that some good will come from all of this.  It must.

Out there in the wide world, North Korea has fired a missile from a submarine toward Japan.  Provocative as ever, the chubby little dictator is testing the limits of what he can get away with.

Remember the Boko Haram?  One of their leaders may have been badly wounded in a Nigerian airstrike.  I hope so.

The Iraqis are intent on reclaiming Mosul.  More than a million people will be displaced if they do it, according to estimates.  More refugees in this horrific war that never ends…

The Brits voted for Brexit and Brexiting are a large number of corporations who are moving their money out of Britain.  Not good for Britain who is going to have to do a lot of juggling with this Brexit thing…

It is late.  I am distracted.

Long ago and far away, I was friends with the Elsen family.  Don Elsen, patriarch of the clan, passed away today. He was 90, lived a good long life.  I saw him a year ago.  Unable to walk, he managed the world with a motorized wheel chair, mentally sharp as ever.

They were descendants of Germans and when I was with them, they could be screaming at each other and then burst into laughter and hug and hold each other.  It was amazing.  They were all full of love and Don was one of the most generous souls I have known in this life.

God rest.  Keep safe.  Be reunited in heaven with your beloved wife, Betty.  Your son, Jeffrey, and your brothers who went before you.

May I have such a homecoming someday.

 

 

Letter From New York 07 15 2016 As the Great Game goes on…

July 15, 2016

It is a warm, humid day as I trundle north on the train, back to Hudson.  The Hudson River is dotted with boats and the spray of jet skis.  A soft haze lays across the river, so it seems that what I see is in soft focus.

It’s not a bad day for soft focus.

I went into the city yesterday afternoon to have drinks with my friends Nick and David at Le Monde, a French Bistro near Columbia and then drifted from there to Cafe du Soleil, where I joined a party for Bastille Day put together by friends David and Bill.  We were festive and the mood was buoyant and I was home and asleep by the time news was coming out of France that a young Tunisian Frenchman had driven a lorry into a crowd celebrating Frances’ National Holiday, plowing on for 1.2 miles before he was killed and after he had killed at least 84 and wounded 202 others.

As I look out of the window of the train, sold out, standing room only, I see the verdant green hills which line the western bank of the river, the beginnings of the Catskills, bucolic, peaceful, welcoming.

The dead in Nice, a pleasant city in the south of France, to the east of Cannes, on the Rivera, home of the airport that serves that golden stretch of land, setting for glittery events and the place of lovely villas climbing the hills to look down on the Mediterranean, include ten children.  Fifty others from last night hang between life and death, as medical professionals do their best.

One woman talked for a long time to her dead child.  The living and unwounded began to swarm toward the beaches, away from the lorry, in case it was loaded with explosives.

On Wednesday, July 13, in Syria, 58 people died, mostly civilians of war related wounds.   Since the beginning of 2016 about 8,000 have died, since the beginning of the war over 440,000.  11.5% of Syria’s population has been killed or wounded.

On the same day in Iraq, 22 died by gunfire, bombs, rockets.

Looking out at the beautiful Hudson River, the Catskills on the other side, with gracious, magical homes occasionally dotting the landscape, it is easy to focus on the green moment and not the black news but today I cannot slip away, into the beauty.

It is all so senseless and all leaders seem to talk about the senselessness of it and do they find the senselessness of it enough of a unifying theme that they commit to actions that will stop it? 

One of the books I am reading is “The Good Years” by Walter Lord, describing the years between 1900 and 1914, when World War I began.  I am near the end of it, the war is beginning.  Devastation was released upon the European continent over the tragic death of an Archduke and his wife, which gave “permission” for the Austro Hungarian Empire and the German Empire to act to achieve political goals they had long wanted and ended up destroying themselves.

Men in power are always playing “the great game,” and as the game is played, the innocent die. 

The train is arriving in Hudson and I am winding down.  I will say my prayers tonight for all the people who died today because they are pawns in “the great game” and see if I can find a way to work effectively for change.

In the time since I’ve arrived home, run some errands and prepare to go into town for a comedy show,  the Turkish military, apparently fed up with Erdogan, is attempting a coup. Bridges across the Bosporus are closed, military aircraft are flying low over Istanbul and Ankara and gunshots have been reported.

“The Great Game” goes on.

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

July 4, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_1317

Letter From New York, via the Vineyard 06 22 2016 Far from the madding crowd but all too aware of it…

June 23, 2016

It is peaceful here in Edgartown, sitting watch a sailboat motor past my window.  The harbor has been filling up with more boats each week that I have been here.  The moorings are filling up with boats of all kinds, small and large.  Far away, just outside the harbor sits a huge motor yacht.  I think it’s been here every year I have. 

Tomorrow, by this time, we should know if Britain has decided to “Brexit” or not and on Friday we will see how the markets respond.  It will be, I am told in newspaper reports, a slow unwinding that will take at least two years.  On the way home from the bookstore, I heard a report that those in Britain who would support Trump are those who support “Brexit.”  They are older, rural, and less educated.   The young in Britain support remaining but have a shabby record of voting. 

It is too close to call.

Jo Cox, the British MP, murdered by a man shouting “Britain first!” as he killed her while she was campaigning against “Brexit” would have turned 42 today.

Right now, led by Representative John Lewis, Democrats are staging a Congressional “sit in” to push Republicans to do something about gun control after four separate bills on the subject failed to pass, blocked by Republicans.  John Lewis is an older African American who cut his chops in the civil rights era and is taking what he learned there to literally the floor of Congress.  Representative Joe Kennedy, a scion of that famous clan, is also on the floor with him.  As is the New York Congressman just to the south of me, Sean Maloney, an openly gay man who lives with his husband and children in Rhinebeck.

Trump is stumping.  He speechified and NPR annotated.  Here is the link: 

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/23/us/politics/donald-trump-speech-highlights.html?_r=0

Worth reading…

Mr. Trump owns a golf course in Scotland.  Locals have raised a Mexican flag in view of the course to articulate their displeasure with the man.  He promised 6,000 jobs.  He created 150.

Since last writing, Trump has said, “You’re fired!” to Corey Lewandowski who had been his campaign manager.  Apparently, Trump’s family pressured him into it.

In Pakistan, the Taliban has claimed responsibility for the assassination of Amjad Sabri, a Sufi Muslim singer, shot while heading to a performance, shortly after leaving home.  The Pakistanis are outraged.  The Taliban claimed his form of singing mystical Islamic poetry was “blasphemous.”  Most thought it beautiful.

There are at least hundreds of thousands in the Federal Prison System. Inmate No. 47991-424 is Dennis Hastert, once Speaker of the House, now imprisoned because he lied about bank transfers that were being paid to cover up he had sexually abused a boy when he was a wrestling coach.

In disturbing news, it appears the Pentagon is not letting people know if Americans are being wounded or killed in Iraq and Syria as it would “not be helpful.”  By the time the Mideast fiasco is finished we will have wasted five trillion dollars.  Five trillion dollars…

There is a lavender light over the harbor, the water is peaceful.  I am writing while watching the news with my friend Jeffrey as I slip into another almost bucolic evening in the Vineyard.  Here it is peaceful, far from the madding world.

Letter From New York via Martha’s Vineyard 06 13 2016 Numb but furious. Where have all the flowers gone?

June 14, 2016

Yesterday, as I suspect most people did, I woke to the horror of the Orlando massacre.  Rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I kept wondering if I was actually reading what I was reading.

Of course I was. 

Not long ago I emailed a friend, now living in Florida, that I felt furious and, at the same time, numbed.  I am angry and do not know a single thing I can do that will actually help affect any kind of real change.  A New Yorker, both my Senators support more stringent laws regarding guns.  It will do no good to write them.  Obama sits on my side of the issue. 

And any letter I write to a Republican, I fear, will lend no weight.  I have tried.  Somehow I end up on their mailing lists, thanking me for being a supporter.  When Bush was President, I wrote a letter demanding he not invade Iraq.  For years, I received Christmas cards and photos of W. and Laura, thanking me for my loyalty to them.

Same with my local Congressman…

They are not listening.

It is twilight here on Martha’s Vineyard.  A few boats skiff across the harbor.  From where I sit, I can see the Edgartown lighthouse.  I am sipping a glass of wine, lost in the quiet and the beauty, furious and numb.

As I was not needed at Edgartown Books, I headed out in my car today, turning left at the end of the driveway and letting fate take me where it will.  For awhile, as I drove, I listened to NPR programs doing an exegesis of yesterday’s tragedy, the worst mass shooting in the country.

As he holed up with terrified people, Omar Mateen, the shooter, called 911 to let them know he was doing this because he was pledging allegiance to IS, calling the Boston bombers from its Marathon his “brothers.” 

As I listened, the portrait of Omar Mateen was beginning to reveal itself to those who were attempting to figure out what had happened.  He was American born, apparently radicalized via the Internet, probably bi-polar, an abusive husband, worked for a security firm, had been interviewed at least twice by the FBI because of statements he made or actions performed.

He bought his guns legally.  He bought his guns legally, after all that.  He killed 49 people and died himself.  53 others are wounded.

He was offended by seeing two men kiss.  But his parents didn’t think he was unhinged.

Trump tweeted in peacock pride about being right about Muslims except Omar Mateen was born in America of Afghan parents.  He was a US citizen by birth, no act would keep him out.  He didn’t come here perverted.  He was born here and was perverted by God knows exactly what…

He attacked a gay nightclub, Pulse.  It is Gay Pride Month.  It is also Immigration Month.  It was Latin night at Pulse. Kill two birds with one stone?  Hate amplified?

As I drove the island today, I felt lonely, in the way I felt lonely when I was young and watched as Viet Nam unfolded before me and about which I felt powerless until I played hooky from school and joined a march against the war.

We have no marches these days.  We don’t gather together to scream against the violence.  Perhaps that is why I felt lonely today; I have comrades but we do not come together, we do not march together, we do not sing songs of protest together against the outrageousness of the time in which we live.

Sitting here, watching the pink tinged sky while a small boat motors across the harbor, I am still numb and I am still furious.  What do I do with this?

And in the back of my head, all day has been the thought:  where have all the flowers gone?

Letter From New York 05 01 2016 From Church to Bin Laden…

May 2, 2016

Five years ago Osama Bin Laden, a rich kid who definitely went bad, was killed in his hiding place in Pakistan, apparently with a stash of video porn.  Born privileged, he rejected privilege and embraced fundamental Islam and wreaked havoc on the world, partly supported by his personal wealth as a scion of a family that had made a huge fortune in construction in the great oil years in Saudi Arabia.  It was said he only wore a shirt once and then discarded it.

Fast forward and Al Qaeda is in decline while its successor, IS, is on the rise.  Or is it?   Its territory has shrunk this year and there is a full on assault about to happen on Mosul, one of the chief cities it has conquered.

However, they are not a country per se and attack places like Brussels and Paris as terrifying terrorists.  The world is a crazy place, isn’t it?  Full of anger, full of hate, full of vitriol and absolutism.  I certainly hope we survive this as well as we survived the vitriol and absolutism of Nazism.  That thought gives me hope.

On Tuesday, Indiana votes.  It looks like it is going to be another Trump victory.  Some polls have hime with a 15% lead. Others have him with a smaller lead but in all polls he has a lead.  It may be a “make it or break it moment” for Ted Cruz.

And as so much of the 2016 campaign has been, this is a fraught moment.  Cruz fights for his political life and Trump sails on, turning every disadvantage into an advantage.  It has been mind boggling to watch and frightening to contemplate. 

This is where we are in politics.  And it is Ted Cruz who helped set the stage for the current scene.

Last night was the White House Correspondents Dinner and while I didn’t watch it in real time, the video clips have been good and demonstrated that Obama has a ready wit [I am sure helped by good writers].  People I know found it great fun and I will look at clips tonight, once I have finished this missive.

The days are growing longer.  It is nearly eight and there is still light and I am looking at the creek in twilight but not darkness.  I love this time of year as the world moves towards the longest day of the year. 

It is a moment of happiness.

It has been a sweet day.  There was a good dinner party last night.  My guests were Larry and Alicia.  A while ago had been his birthday and last night we celebrated it.  Today Larry and Alicia invited me to join them at Ca’Mea for lunch after church, which I did and which was great fun.

I am sitting at my dining room table and am looking out over the creek and am so grateful for this place and this time.

May you be happy in your place and time.

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

April 14, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isn’t there a better way?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hudson River

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

Letter From New York 03 24 2016 From where we were to where we are…

March 25, 2016

Darkness has descended on the Hudson Valley; it is pitch black outside though I am heartened everyday by the weather person’s announcement we had three or so more minutes of daylight today than yesterday.

I’ve adjusted the timers on lights to accommodate the increasing daylight.  I rejoice as I am sure everyone does.

My dining room table is scattered with recipes from which I will choose the ones being made for Easter.  I am getting it organized.   I bought upgraded plastic silverware for Sunday.  Since I am doing this, I want it to be a little special — or a lot special.

In the morning I will winnow down the recipes and head out to do my shopping.  My friend Robert has given me eight dozen eggs from the chickens who live at his house down in Rhinebeck.  I had some for lunch.  There is nothing like farm fresh eggs!

While I am typing this, Christ Church is celebrating Maundy Thursday and I wasn’t feeling very churchy tonight so I didn’t go.

Probably feeling more churchy than I do, or at least one would hope so, is Radovan Karadzic, the former Serb leader who was convicted today of genocide during the horrific Serbian conflict twenty-one years ago.  Eight thousand Muslim men and boys were slaughtered in a town called Srebrenica.  Justice finally has been done though it will not bring back those men and boys whose only crime was that they were born Muslim.

At the time, when it was revealed, I felt horror and I feel it today.  There was a time when such things happened to Christians; indeed, they are happening today to Christians at the hands of IS.  It is things like Srebrenica that make IS feel justified.

It’s been a happy day for me, feeling far from all the world’s troubles, tooling around Columbia County, collecting mail, a couple of meetings with organizations I am volunteering with, a haircut, bumping into people on the street and having a good conversation with them.

While I was doing those fun things, the police in Paris foiled an alleged terror attack in advanced stages.  Obama apologized in Argentina for some of our policies and actions during their long and very dirty internal war.  I suspect we turned too blind an eye to some things.

Belgium and Europe in general are struggling to balance freedom and safety in the fight against terrorist attacks.

In America, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are exploiting our fears in their campaigns; loudly criticized and, I think, rightly so, by Obama.  And I think by Hillary and Bernie, too.

Syrian troops loyal to Assad are in the suburbs of Palmyra in the early stages of reclaiming the city from IS, which has this year lost 21% of the territory it controlled.  The monuments destroyed are gone and it will be good if the city can be liberated.  It has suffered terribly.

At the same time, Iraqi troops are advancing into Mosul, using lessons from the recapture of Ramadi to help them win back this important Iraqi city.  Many of the historical treasures there are gone also, never to be seen again.

I do not live in their mindset and cannot come close to comprehending why it was necessary for them to destroy the heritage of the planet.  But they did.  It ranks up there with the killings at Srebrenica.  Maybe it doesn’t.  At Srebrenica those were living beings that were destroyed.  At Palmyra and Mosul, it was the artifacts of the past that helped create the world in which we now live.

There are echoes of that world here in the cottage.  I have treasured artifacts from the past and things that echo them.  Someday, when I am gone, all this will be scattered, some thrown away but in the time they have had with me I have been grateful for their presence.

There is a small collection of masks, a recreation of a bust of Athena from Greece, a painting from India that evokes Alexander, a Renoir re-strike, a wonderful painting from a Provincetown gallery of Alexander. 

We need the past to build the future, to connect ourselves from where we were to where we are going.