Posts Tagged ‘King John’

Letter From New York 06 15 15 From manhunts to the Magna Carta

June 15, 2015

When I woke this morning, rain was pelting down on the roof and the world was infused with dark grey. The creek, so clear yesterday, was now brown from the rain that had roared down during the night. It was the kind of day when one’s immediate reaction is to go back to bed, pull the covers over your head and work to get back to that interesting dream you’d been having when the alarm went off.

But I didn’t. Going out to the kitchen, I turned on the coffee pot and began to plan my day. Yesterday, there were several errands I needed to get done but didn’t so I determined to use the morning to accomplish them and then head back to the city in the afternoon.

Scheduled for the 1:30, I finally got out of Hudson at 2:30 and then lost most of another hour due to the fact we were now behind a slow moving local Metro North Train. It was fine. Before leaving, I went to Relish, across from the station and had lunch and then on the train, caught up with some reading I needed to do.

The city is as grey as the country, with rain forecast again for tomorrow. Unusually, I am going back to the country on Wednesday. I feel like I need some cottage time and have some work to catch up on that doesn’t require me to be in the city so I am going to do it from the cottage.

Today is the official 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta and Britain’s Royals were out in force to celebrate. David Cameron, the Prime Minister was there, extolling the virtues of the document. A few years ago on a late night talk show, Cameron couldn’t remember that Magna Carta is Latin for “Great Charter.” That didn’t stop him today for speaking of its long-term effects.

What I hadn’t known until today was that the Magna Carta lasted only a few months. As soon as King John has put his great seal to the document [he never really signed it], the King sent messengers to Rome asking the Pope to nullify the agreement. In September 1215, the Pope did just that. But like all great ideas, this one couldn’t be killed and it kept returning, becoming an inspiration for democratic leaders around the world.

The International Criminal Court is disappointed that South Africa did not follow through on a South African judge’s ruling that President Bashir of Sudan be detained in that country for possible transference to international authorities regarding accusations of genocide against Bashir. It seems that the South African authorities kept their eyes closed until Bashir’s plane was out of South African airspace.   A probe will be held but it won’t help the ICC from capturing the man.

Nasir al-Wuhayshi, a top Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader, has apparently been killed in a drone attack. Also, over the weekend, there were airstrikes in Libya with the purpose of taking out Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a notorious Al Qaeda operative who has escaped death several times. He is known as “The Uncatchable” for his ability to escape. In the early days of his career, when he was a cigarette smuggler, he was known as “The Marlboro Man.” The US is going to be very careful in announcing that he is gone. They’ve been stung several times before when he has been declared dead and then showed up alive.

Still alive and still on the run, are the two escapees from Clinton Prison in upstate New York. The search is now entering its tenth day. Joyce Mitchell, who worked in the prison’s tailor shop, has been arraigned for helping them. Supposedly, she sneaked them tools and was going to drive them away the night of her escape. Part of their plot was that they were going to be picked up and then would go to Joyce’s home, kill her husband and then all of them would go on the run. Joyce had a panic attack and went to the hospital for treatment instead. She has apparently said she couldn’t go through with it because she loved her husband.

Fact is stranger than fiction.

Not fictional is that the Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, John C. Nienstedt, and an auxiliary bishop, Lee A. Piche, resigned today following charges that the Archdiocese didn’t do enough to prevent child molestation, particularly in the case of a now de-frocked priest who is serving time for molesting two boys.

I grew up a Catholic in that diocese and many of my friends who still live there are Catholic. The really liberal ones despise Nienstedt and I am sure are rejoicing his departure.

To no one’s surprise, Jeb Bush announced his run for the Republican Presidential nomination. His logo has his name “Jeb” but no mention of “Bush” as he works to distance himself from his brother.

More to come… It’s been a busy day and shortly I will be off to say hello to a friend who is just back from two weeks in Greece.

Letter From New York 06 14 15 Celebrations of democracy on two sides of the Atlantic….

June 14, 2015

Today is June 14th, Flag Day, a holiday I must say I never paid much attention to before moving to Columbia County. On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed a flag resolution. It stated: Resolved, That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white, the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.

In 1949, Congress made it official.

Hudson, the County Seat for Columbia County, takes Flag Day VERY seriously; the day outstrips the 4th of July in celebrations. The parade is bigger than the 4th’s and Flag Day fireworks are much more spectacular than those on the 4th.

Apparently, it started with The Elks. They made it mandatory to celebrate Flag Day for their members in 1908 and the Hudson Elks started marching down the main drag, Warren Street, along with the high school marching band and a few others.

It is interesting to note that when Congress made the day official in 1949, Harry Truman was President, and he was an Elk.

In 1996, the Hudson Elks opened the parade to the whole county and it has soared since then.

Every year I go to the Red Dot, have my brunch, and watch from outside the restaurant as every fire truck in the County seems to wheel down the street. Most years, the Caballeros, from New Jersey, musically march down Warren Street in white and black with red scarves and sombreros.   They’re an annual hit. Alana, the Red Dot’s proprietress, hails from the same Jersey city they do and she relishes their presence. She followed them down the street yesterday, blessing them with the soap bubble gun she had me go out and buy for her.

Children dance and cheer and wave flags their parents have bought them from vendors plying Warren Street. It was a picture postcard perfect day yesterday and it was a picture postcard event. Hudson is a town of about 8,000 and 10 to 12 thousand jam into the city for the parade and the evening’s fireworks.

I was not in town for the fireworks, having invited friends for a barbecue last night.

Today is a lazy afternoon of finishing putting the house back in order. Right now, I am seated on the deck, staring down onto the creek, gently flowing down into the pond. The overhanging trees are reflected off the mirror like water, so that all in front of me is a riot of green. Birds are chirping on the other side of the creek and overhead is the muted roar of a plane flying south from the little Columbia County Airport due north of me. All is peaceful in my little world. When I have finished this, I will start “Scoop” by Evelyn Waugh, recommended to me by my friend, Nick Stuart.

It is a lovely afternoon in Columbia County, sitting on the deck, sipping water and tapping on my laptop.

The world, of course, is not peaceful but it feels so far away when I am here.

While Columbia County has been celebrating Flag Day with a weekend of festivities, Britain has been celebrating that tomorrow is the official 800th Anniversary of The Magna Carta, the document that established the King was not above the law but subject to it. It is the foundation upon which democracy has risen.

King John signed it at Runnymede and tomorrow the Queen will be there, hosting a celebration, which will include thousands of people. There have been jousting matches and re-enactments of carrying the document down the Thames to London by barge, 800 years ago.

A thirteen-foot tall statue of Queen Elizabeth II was unveiled yesterday at Runnymede to mark the occasion.

While Britain is in the throes of its Magna Carta celebration, Talha Asmal, a young British citizen from Dewsbury, blew himself up in Iraq, becoming the youngest known British suicide bomber. He was just seventeen. He had run away and joined IS in March.

Sudan’s President, Bashir, was in South Africa for a meeting of the African Union. South Africa ordered him not to leave the country because he is wanted on charges of genocide at Darfur. However, as I write, it appears he may have slipped out of South Africa and is on his way back to Khartoum.

IS has created “flirt squads” to unmask gay men so they can throw them from rooftops.

Once I flirted with the idea of going to the Middle East, it seemed exotic and wonderful. Now I am afraid of thinking about going there.

I will treasure my afternoon, on the creek, listening to the sounds of my woods and watching the mirror like creek reflect the trees.

Letter From New York 01 08 15 Starting with the Magna Carta…

January 8, 2015

To the left of me, the Hudson River is steel grey, ice clinging to its shores. The sun is just beginning to set to the West. I’m headed north after a day in the city, going home to see if my pipes have frozen.

It is bitterly cold here; not as cold as the Midwest but nearly so. I don’t remember a time when the wind chill was predicted to reach minus thirty-five in Claverack, not in the fourteen years I have been here.

It is beautiful, this ride up the Hudson, good for thinking and pulling together one’s thoughts or to just absorb the beauty. In the clear channel of the river, barges plow their way through the frigid waters.

In France, the hunt for the suspects in the Charlie Hebdo killings is focused on northern France. In New York, at Penn Station, squads of State Police were present as security throughout the city has been heightened. Extra police are stationed at various news outlets today in case anyone in New York should decide to play copycat.

For a moment today, distracted by the cold, I had forgotten about the massacre in Paris and the ramifications it would have in New York. Whenever there is violence in a western city, New York beefs up security reflexively. We go about our business but never forget we feel like a bull’s-eye is on our back.

Mayor DeBlasio phoned the Mayor of Paris and offered his condolences.

There has been much written today about freedom of the press and Charlie Hedbo, including a very moving one from a journalist from Wired, reporting from the Consumer Electronics Show happening in Vegas. I tweeted his article out today.

In Yemen, thirty-seven were killed in a car bomb attack. In Nigeria, two thousand have died in the latest onslaught of the Boko Haram. But those two events have not captured the world’s attention in the way that the Charlie Hedbo killings have. The articles I’ve read today have speculated it was because they were journalists and freedom of the press is one of the sacred tenets of the West.

800 years ago in 1215, a group of rebel Barons coerced the Magna Carta out of King John, beginning the ongoing process that resulted in our Constitution. 800 years of growing freedom and a few masked men want to roll it all back.

It may be that this assault on journalists has forced us all to think about the freedoms we have as evidenced by Charlie Hedbo exerting its privilege to be provocative, profane, rebellious, etc. It is a privilege that has been earned over generations from the Barons of England to our rebellious Founding Fathers to the peasants who stormed the Bastille in Paris to those who are fighting today in various parts of the world to hold back the darkness.

And that is why, I think, Charlie Hedbo has been so deeply felt by so many. The killings were designed to kill something greater than the poor souls who died; it was an assault of our Western sense of freedom.