Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Sessions’

Letter From Claverack 10 09 2017 My country ’tis of thee…

October 9, 2017


There are times when even the quiet beauty of the cottage is not enough to soothe the soul; this has been one of those times.  Since the shootings in Las Vegas, I have found little solace in anything, except, perhaps, sleep.

Sunday, Mother Eileen captured the anguish, pain and despair I feel in her sermon.  After the Prayers of the People, the bell tolled once for each person killed in Las Vegas.  The service closed with “My Country Tis of Thee.”

My head bowed, I fought back tears.

There has been Las Vegas.  Jeff Sessions is claiming that bans on discrimination don’t cover transgender people.  The Trump Administration is rolling back rules that help women have birth control as part of their medical coverage.

The United States joined Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China and a few other repressive regimes in refusing to declare it immoral to execute people for being gay.


As the bell was tolling [and it tolls for thee], I thought of a long ago, rainy, cold November afternoon and looked at my mother and said: what kind of country are we?  It was the afternoon of the day Kennedy had been killed and that moment is etched in my brain, looking out the front windows at a sad world and wondering just what kind of country would kill someone who seemed to be having so much fun and was doing good things?

There was nothing my mother could say.  To this day, I remember the look she gave me, wanting to have an answer and having none.  The silence still rings in my ears all these years later as does the memory of the slick, wet street, a yellow and red city bus moving slowly down the street.

Last night there was another torch lit march in Charlottesville, VA.  A return of Richard Spencer and his white supremacists.  Listen to their chants: “The South will rise again. Russia is our friend. The South will rise again. Woo-hoo! Wooo.” [Washington Post, October 7, 2017]

Russia is our friend?  The South will rise again?  Russia is not my friend and the South envisioned by these chaps is not a South in which I would be comfortable.  It’s one in which I think I might be afraid for my life.

Today is Columbus Day, the day everyone makes noise about old Christopher Columbus and his “discovery” of America.  Personally, I suspect it was the Vikings a few centuries earlier but they don’t get credit [maybe I think that because my mother’s family were Swedish].  However, as we have discovered Christopher Columbus was brave and not a model of morality in the way he treated native Americans.  White people, in general, have not been very kind to native Americans.

Thirty years ago, my friend Ann Frisbee Naymie and I had a conversation about this and she just said to me:  bad karma for what we did.

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who has announced he is not seeking reelection, electrified the world yesterday with a tweet saying the White House was an adult care center and someone had missed their shift.  Really?  A Republican lawmaker is talking about a Republican President in this way?  Wowza!  You go, Corker.  And I agree with you that Trump runs the White House like it’s an episode of the President and, like you, I think it is possible Donald Trump could stumble us into a nuclear war before he realized what he’d done.

Two hospitals have been evacuated in California and at least 50 structures destroyed in fires that are causing people to flee from Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties while in southern California fires are raging in Orange County, south of Los Angeles.

The Four Horseman are riding.

Thank you, Mother Eileen, for giving shape to the inchoate agony I was experiencing when I walked into church yesterday. Thank you for ringing the bell for the deaths in Las Vegas.  Thank you for asking the painful questions we all should be asking ourselves.  What kind of country are we?  What kind of country do we want to be?




Letter From Claverack 09 05 2017 On my knees, praying…

September 6, 2017

Today, earlier, as I sat sipping morning coffee, two huge geese came crashing through a tree fallen across the creek, landing hard, splashing as they hit creek water.  It was startling.  Geese, once so abundant on my creek, have been rare these last few years.  Mature birds these, I wondered if they were from one of the many families of geese I have seen growing up while I have resided at the cottage, come home to roost for a moment.  Sailing majestically up and down for a time, they departed and I’ve not seen them again.


Irma has become a Category 5 Hurricane and will reach Saba tonight, the Caribbean island I visited earlier this year.  Two friends from my Los Angeles days have retired there and will be facing her fury as I write this.  For a while, I got lost on Facebook to see if they had posted anything new but they hadn’t.  It’s now that time when you get on your knees and pray, which I will tonight and have not done since my very Catholic days and that was a long while ago.  And I am worried for them because Irma is as fiercer than Harvey.

Hopefully, I will know tomorrow more than I know tonight.  Tonight, they are battening down the hatches and waiting, hoping, maybe praying though I don’t think either of them are religious.  There have been posts from people I met there.  They will be in my prayers, too.

Tonight, across the country, “Dreamers” are praying because Jeff Sessions announced the end of Obama’s DACA order and Congress has six months to fix it or all those “dreamers” will begin to be deported.

Color me cynical.  How cruel can this Administration be?  Trump is playing to his base but not to the interests of the country.  Color me angry and not surprised.  So little surprises me anymore.  And there are all kinds of folks who think this is just wonderful.

And that scares me and makes me hopeful because all the rage in America is boiling to surface and maybe we will finally deal with it.  It would be good if we did because we are in a very delicate place.

Back in the day, long, long ago, I was in Canada to be in my roommate’s wedding to a Canadian woman and, as I was preparing to leave, a group of my Canadian friends did an “intervention.” They did not want me to leave. Viet Nam was in play.  They wanted me to stay, become a Canadian.

I didn’t.  Because I was an American.  It was a very profound moment in my life, making the decision to return.  Those were people I loved, who loved me and I might have been happy there – a completely different life but not unhappy.

But I am an American and so I returned, got lucky, didn’t go to Viet Nam, didn’t serve in the military and made my life here.

But here is not the here I know.  This here seems very strange to me, like the clock has been turned back and I don’t get it.  Something is afoot and we need to fix it, once and for all.  Maybe electing Trump will be the catalyst to fixing the festering wound that has damaged our national soul.

Letter from Claverack 07 28 2017 Needing places and moments of refuge…

July 28, 2017



A gray, foggy morning yielded to a fairly sunny, rather cool afternoon; whenever the sun slipped behind a cloud I was tempted to come into the house from my perch on the deck while the cleaning crew spiffed the house.

Now, with cottage clean, I am sitting at the dining room table, sliders open to the deck.  Birds are singing and music from the 1940’s is playing on my Echo.

Returning from the Vineyard Tuesday, I made myself a martini, wrote a poem, and found myself purchasing Christmas presents from a site that emails regularly, from which I buy irregularly and, yesterday, had some things I wanted.  Saying there were only four available, I pounced.  I think they were being clever as the number available never went below four.

Insane for Christmas shopping in July?  No.  It saves so much stress come November.  In January, I saw something I thought would be perfect for my friends, Nick and Lisa, and thought: if not now, when?  And, you know, I have been back to that store several times and not seen the item again.

All this, the creek and future Christmas shopping, visiting my friends on Martha’s Vineyard, is very hygge.  And I need all the hygge I can get.

Monday or Tuesday I received a scree from a relative who supports Trump that was filled with things that made me flinch, a repudiation of most of the things I think are advancements.  Should we go back to the days of a segregated America?

And while I look out at my sun kissed creek, I read that Ventura County, just north of Los Angeles, has published a 252-page pamphlet on how to deal with a North Korean nuclear attack.  That was something I needed to read a couple of times.  Hawaii is also preparing for such an event and I am holding my head to keep it from exploding.

Somewhere along the line in my now longish life, I read that one of the contributing factors in the fall of Rome was lead poisoning.  Romans lined their wine amphorae with lead which leached into the wine they drank and we all know lead poisoning isn’t good.

Sperm count has dropped by 50% in the western world in the last forty years.  Gives me pause to wonder what historians will say about the cause.  Pesticide poisoning? Another reason?

President Trump addressed the Boy Scout Jamboree this week.  What you thought of his speech probably depends on which side of the political spectrum you are on.

Speaking of our President, his relentless attacks on Attorney General Sessions seem to have many Republicans up in arms, particularly in the Senate where Sessions was a member for a lot of years and it’s a tight club.

Republican Senator John McCain, with whom I have often not agreed [particularly in his choice of Sarah Palin as his VP choice], made a speech for bipartisanship after returning from surgery for a brain tumor.  If you want to both hear and read what he said, click here. It reminded me of the times I have liked him.

Our president is not going to allow transgender individuals to serve in the Armed Forces.  It’s not necessary for me to elucidate the storm that has created, not the least of which happened in the Pentagon, caught off guard by a Twitter announcement of a policy change.

The president made mention of medical costs for transgendered individuals which turns out to be less than what the Army spends on Viagra each year.

The cynic in me feels it was announced to please his base and divert attention from all the White House chaos.

Hello, Anthony Scaramucci!

The world in which I live seems so mad on so many levels that I am grateful I have the ability to sit here and look out at my canopy of green, look down into my creek and see the bottom of it through the clear, clear water, that I can listen to music and celebrate it, that I have had the chance to stare out at Edgartown harbor thanks to the kindness of my friends who invite me to visit them, that, even though I think the world right now more mad than it has been since my adolescence, I have places and moments of refuge.






Letter From Claverack 07 20 2017 Written from the “land of off…”

July 20, 2017

Edgartown harbor shimmers below me; boats bob at anchor on a quiet, very warm afternoon on Martha’s Vineyard – the warmest day I have experienced in the half dozen or so summers I have visited the island.  Seated in the shade, with a soft wind blowing off the water, it is tolerable though earlier today most people seemed intent on finding air conditioning, crowding cool restaurants and shops.


Last year I was here to help with my friends’ bookstore, Edgartown Books.  This year, I am here for just a week, to relax, read, relax some more, eat, perhaps sail a bit with my friends, eat, relax, sip a martini, read, a wonderful and undemanding rhythm; my friend Jeffrey calls it “the land of off.”

Reading was too wearying for me and I went to my room and promptly napped, waking just in time for a conference call.

Sadie, one of the two Bernese mountain dogs who live here, is recovering from back surgery, making slow and steady improvement from a bad fall some months ago.  Every day, she has water therapy in the pool.


Far above me, a bi-plane circles, taking sightseers on an aerial tour of the island.  It is soft, bucolic and very, very far from the madding crowd.

Which is why it is very nice, in these strange times, to be in “the land of off.”  The amount of news consumed is less.  Last year, the kitchen television played CNN.  This year, old movies run constantly.  In the background of my morning coffee, “The Great Race” played, starring Natalie Wood and Tony Curtis.

Finishing a trifle of a murder mystery by a woman who seems to knock off a book a month, I felt content with little demanded of me.

An exegesis of political affairs is a shade depressing, to make mild of a situation now more astounding by the day.

Donald Trump, Jr. is being described as a “good boy,” a “nice young man” though he is scraping forty and has five children.  It is a time honored American defense used by the Kennedys when Teddy drove off a bridge not far from where I sit and a young woman died, Mary Jo Kopechne, lest we forget her name.  It is a time-honored defense for American men though not for women.  Ponder that.

Railing to the New York Times, Donald Trump, has declared he would never have offered Jeff Sessions the job of Attorney General if he had known he would recuse himself from the Russian investigation.  Sessions has said, post Trump’s remarks, he’ll stay as long as “it’s appropriate.”  Geez, I don’t know if I would stay when I knew I wasn’t wanted, especially so publicly unwanted.

Today, at noon, Trump celebrated the six-month mark in office.  You make your own decision on how well he has done.  We are one eighth of the way through his Presidency.

In Palos Verde, CA, forty-one-year old Chester Bennington, lead singer of the group Linkin Park, was found dead, an apparent suicide, succumbing to the demons he was open about but could not, it seems, master.  Rest in peace.

Twenty-two years ago, I was in Australia when OJ Simpson was acquitted of murdering his wife Nicole and her friend, Ron Goldman.  Today he was granted parole from a prison sentence resulting from an armed robbery.  He should be released in October.

Seeking comfort, I watch the newest season of “Midsomer Mysteries” and anticipate the return of “The Last Tycoon,” starring Matt Bomer and Kelsey Grammer, about a movie studio in the 1930’s, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last, unfinished novel.

It seems no wonder to me, we are immersing ourselves in some of the best television in history; we need escape, diversion and pleasure from a world that is more than untidy.

So, I sit, on my friends’ deck, watching boats bob at anchor or scud across the bay, with birds chirping while Sadie is ministered to, the future feels far, far away and the present oh so pleasant.

Letter From Miami 02 12 2017 Hygge while traveling

February 12, 2017

Around me, I am listening to a mélange of English, Spanish, Italian, French and German.

I am not in Claverack, NY but on the veranda of my hotel in Miami Beach, a cloudy morning having given way to clear blue skies with a gentle breeze blowing off the beach a short block away, sipping my third very good cappuccino of the day.

Waking just after seven, I have spent most of my morning here.  First, a light breakfast with my friend Nick Stuart, before he left for what is now a rainy New York, later, reading the New York Times on my new iPhone 7 Plus, much easier than on my old 5s.

Reading the news is a bemusing event these days.  It may just be me but it seems the Administrative Branch of our government is in disarray while the Legislative Branch appears as if it’s a group of old white men braying their success at owning the joint with the Judicial Branch holding the center of sanity.

There is a young man named Stephen Miller who is a Trumpian True Believer, architect of the Travel Ban and, before this, on the staff of Senator Jeff Sessions.  Previously known for his avalanches of ideological emails to fellow Congressional staffers, he is now close to and closely listened to by President Trump.  He is 31 and shaping policy.  We must watch him as he will be influential in the coming months, whatever your political persuasion.

Apparently, his secretive nature was part of the reason the Travel Ban wasn’t thoroughly vetted.

He made the rounds of the Sunday morning shows trumpeting the ways Trump will combat the unanimous decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to refuse to reinstate the ban.

When George Stephanopoulos asked him about the report that Michael Flynn discussed sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador before Flynn was sworn in as White House national security adviser, he had nothing to say, not having been given anything to say by the White House.

On NBC, Miller couldn’t comment on whether the President still had confidence in Flynn.  He also continues to assert there was mass voter fraud, causing Trump to lose the popular vote.  Saying so, doesn’t make it so, Mr. Miller.  If it is true, please show some evidence.  He states facts without proof, a great “gas lighting” technique.

Steve Bannon, Lord Vizier, is being scrutinized for a 2014 speech he gave at a Vatican Conference in which he referenced Julius Evola, darling of Italian Fascists.  It also appears Bannon, who is Catholic, is shimmying up to a group of Vatican insiders who believe Pope Francis is destroying the Church.

Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to President Trump, was herself “counseled” per Press Secretary Spicer because she encouraged people to go out and buy “Ivanka’s stuff,” from the White House Briefing Room. That crosses an ethical line, most people agree.  Perhaps not the President, who was unhappy with Spicer’s choice of the word “counselled.”

The Office of Government Ethics had its website melt down with complaints.

Ivanka has had her line dropped from Nordstrom’s because it was underperforming, which elicited a scolding tweet from the President, and then Nordstrom’s found its stock jumping 5%.

Apparently, Ivanka and Kellyanne have had words:  Kellyanne, don’t mention me or my products on television!

Poor Spicer.  He’s lost face with the President because Melissa McCarthy portrayed him on a SNL skit; the program is having its highest ratings in twenty years as a certain element in the country breathlessly waits for its next Trump skewer, though last night’s skit with Kellyanne Conway doing a “Fatal Attraction” on Jake Tapper caused me to grimace but SNL isn’t always known for its taste.

It is with unconscious competence I have chosen to be away now.  Claverack was pummeled with 12 inches of snow with another twelve about to batter it.  Hopefully, it will be over by the time I return.

Last night, I attended my friends’ party for the fifth anniversary of their art gallery, Williams – McCall, in South Beach.  Their chef was last seen providing the food for the Patriots at the Super Bowl.

So right now, I am going to finish this, do a bit more culling of emails and then head to the beach for a bit of sunbathing.  While I am not at home, this is traveling hygge.


Letter From Claverack 01 15 2017 Bemused but not amused…

January 15, 2017

It is early evening in Claverack; the lights have been turned on over the creek and I have asked Alexa to play the “Pop Classical” station so music is filling the cottage.  It is an idyllic night after a very nice day.

Waking before the alarm this morning, I cleared my email inboxes, showered and gathered things together for the food pantry at the church.  Post church, I went to the Red Dot and then to Ca’Mea to meet Larry and Alicia and it was a pleasant country afternoon.

Against the backdrop of the pleasant country afternoon is a tension about the political scene.

One of my neighbors, who, when he met me was a bit uncomfortable with me and who has become a very good friend, asked me why the LGBTQ community was concerned about Trump.  He voted for neither Hillary or The Donald, loathing them equally.

My response was that it wasn’t so much Trump’s views on gays but the views of the people who are around him.  Mike Pence, Governor of Indiana until Friday, then Vice President of the United States, worked to enact strident laws that jeopardized the rights of gays in his state.  Jeff Sessions, who is by all accounts is a gentleman of the first order in social situations, is homophobic, anti-immigration and anti some other important things.

My friend had no idea. And was concerned when he heard this.

Representative John Lewis of Georgia, a legendary figure in the Civil Rights movement, is not attending Trump’s inauguration because he does not feel Trump in a legitimate President.  I find that unfortunate and counterproductive.

And I find unfortunate and counterproductive Donald Trump’s Twitter storm against Representative Lewis, demeaning his part in the Civil Rights movement.  The man nearly lost his life on the bridge into Selma.  To denigrate him as Trump has is unfortunate and not in keeping with someone who is about to enter the highest office in the land.

Stephen Colbert discussed “truthiness.”  Donald Trump exercised a bit of it in his depiction of Representative Lewis’ district as crime ridden.  In fact, he represents one of the most affluent areas of Atlanta.

There is a good part of me that is sitting back and watching what is happening unfold with a sense of wonder, a sense of OMG is this real?  And it is…

Every time I turn around, I am astounded by our President Elect.

His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is going to be a Senior Advisor.  Is there not something somewhere about nepotism?  Ivanka may be the de facto First Lady as Melania seems to be content to remain in Trump Tower.

Who is this person?

Andy Borowitz, comedian and raconteur, described him as the “Kremlin Employee of the Month.”

The awful thing is that he MIGHT be.

The VERY unsubstantiated report about his actions with the Russians are, at one time, very amusing and incredibly disconcerting.  It has spawned a cottage industry in defining “golden showers.”

Right now, I am sitting back and watching it unfold.  Called me bemused, call me amused, call me frightened, call me whatever you like and I think we need to go back into the early 19th century to find anything similar.

Oh, wow!

And I will continue to watch with a carefully bemused eye that is also carefully turned on to what the new President might do as he needs, more than most Presidents, to be held accountable.

Please help with that.  Please.



Letter from Claverack 01 10 2017 One age ends, another begins… God help us everyone!

January 11, 2017

It is latish, for me.  The clock is moving toward 11 PM and, generally, by this time, I am in bed, reading, watching a video, falling asleep.  But not tonight.  I am just home from an evening with some friends.  We watched a movie on DVD, while having dinner and then watched President Obama’s farewell speech.

There were six of us, I think.  Some cried.  As I watched, I hoped I was not watching the curtain fall on a period of our democracy.  It’s my fear that I will not live long enough to see the other side of the journey we have chosen to take by electing Donald Trump our next President.

Obama extolled us to be activists and I am choosing to be.  I am one of the organizers of a local group we are calling Blue DOT, Democracy Opposing Trump.  How active we are will depend on his actions and the actions of the Republican Congress after they take office.

Obamacare is a flawed system and it is providing help to many who would not have it otherwise.  I know a few, friends who in the years following the economic slump of 2008 and beyond who were hobbled by career misfortune and personal situations and they had no health insurance until Obamacare offered a window.

It’s flawed but it is something.  We spend more on healthcare than anyone in the world and we rank something like 27 in the world for the success of our health care.  In all the time the Republicans were attempting to repeal Obamacare there never was an alternative offered.

Driving home, the exegesis of Obama’s remarks was in full swing on NPR and I heard former Republican leader Eric Cantor say there was no point in offering an alternative to Obamacare though Mr. Cantor did attempt a modification of the ACA when he was in office and the Republicans shut him down for a minor change he wanted.  They wanted nothing to do with ACA.

In the quiet of my home, the creek lit by my lights, thin sheets of ice on each its banks, I am afraid, fearing for the country I do love, for all its flaws.

If you get a chance, read Doug Blackmon’s “Slavery by Another Name.”  It is painful reading and helps me understand what awful, evil things we have done to people of color in this country and while things are much better, they are not yet good and equal.

A quarter of the way through the book, I have paused because each page makes me feel pain and shame about things I never knew but should have known.

Doug won a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize for it.  There was also an acclaimed PBS series based on the book.

We are moving into territory none of us could have imagined.  There is an unverified report which was part of a briefing to both President Elect Trump and to President Obama, that the Russians have compromising information on Trump’s personal life and financial situation.

Tomorrow, Trump will hold a news conference.  Unless he cancels it again.  There will be a lot of questions, understandably.  It is supposed to be about how he will separate himself from his business interests and it will be about his Russian connections.

Part of the unverified report states that there were ongoing conversations between the Trump campaign and Russia.

It is unverified and we need to know if it is true.

There is so much we need to know about Mr. Trump and his nominees for Cabinet positions.  I don’t like Jeff Sessions and don’t want him as Attorney General but at least he is one of the few, if not the only Cabinet nominee, who filled out the required paperwork.

It’s my fear we are about to enter an age in which everyone in government feels they are above the law.

In his speech, Obama challenged us not to allow that to happen.

God help us everyone!