Posts Tagged ‘Koch Brothers’

Letter From The Train 01 03 16 Optimistically riding into the future…

January 3, 2016

New Year 2016. National Cemetery at Antietam. War Between The States.  Racism. States’ Rights. Martinsburg, WV Obama  Crossing the Rubicon  Racism   Homophobia  Xenophobia  Koch Brothers  Rockefeller  Carnegie 

It is nearing noon on Sunday, the 3rd of January.  I have discovered I’m having no difficulty thinking of this as 2016.  Usually, I have trouble turning  the date, thinking of it still as last year.  Not this year…

I seem ready for 2016 and what it will bring.

It feels like a fresh, blank piece of paper, ready to have events written upon it.  For me.  Events have already been happening out in the world and the story of the year has begun to be written.

It still feels fresh to me.  Unsullied…

To make sure I was on time for my train, I drove a rental car into the city.  It gave me time to think.

Driving past the National Cemetery at Antietam, I thought about the Civil War.    Not so long ago I read an article that southern states are re-writing the history of the war so that it was not about slavery but about states’ rights.  I thought the victors got to write the history of a war but apparently not in this case; some revisionists are successfully revising.

Unlike some friends, I find no endless fascination with the War Between The States. 

Driving past Antietam this morning, I felt a wave of sadness not so much because of the war but because of the harsh legacy slavery has left us, a legacy from which we are still recovering.

Returning from picking up the rental in Martinsburg, WV I listened to an interview with a youngish African-American who was involved in Obama’s election campaigns but now is in local politics in Atlanta, I believe.  He spoke of the bitterness he felt at the treatment of Obama while he has sat in the White House.

Unfortunately, I think some of the political obstructionism from Republicans and Democrats that we have seen in the last seven years has been because Obama is black.  It is never said but it lingers in the air around him. 

He crossed a line that has never been crossed.  Electing a man of African-American   heritage crossed the Rubicon and the world will never be the same.  And some resent one more step into a future that will prevent the past from ever being reclaimed.

For a country so young, we obsess about our past, ever yearning for “good old days” that were never quite as good as they are remembered.

Growing up in mid-century America, I can look back and see endless examples of racism, covered in polite mid-western turns of phrase.  There was homophobia and xenophobia mixed with middle-class snobbery. 

One of my sociology books in middle school proclaimed that being American citizens allowed us to stride the world with the same ease and pride that Roman citizens could within their empire.

I’m not sure the Roman Empire was exactly something that young Americans should have been taught to admire.  While remarkable, it was a cruel world that had little regard for human rights.

Minnesota was not as bad as some places I visited.  The first time I visited Oklahoma my hair was shorn for a role in a play at the University of Minnesota.  The second time I returned, it had grown longish.  The same checkout women at the grocery store who had been so nice to me when I had been shorn, shunned me when my hair was longish, not long, only longish.

In Arkansas, a friend fretted for me because I was “a long haired blonde white boy from the North” and they didn’t much like them kind there.

The world is no doubt a better place.  Obama was elected.  We are scrutinizing actions of police toward people of color.  Questions are being asked and young people are sloughing off their parents’ bonds, as every generation does.

We are in, as we have so very often been, at a critical juncture, a country feeling around for its future, as we always have done.  It has been attributed to Churchill that he said:  you can count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have tried everything else.

It always seems like we are trying everything else.  But history has taught us that somehow we manage to do better each generation than the last.  While we have the Koch brothers today to vilify, in the past we have had Rockefeller and Carnegie.

Against all the odds, I am entering this year optimistically, eager to find out what the future has to hold, for me, for the world, the country and for you.

Letter From New York 08 03 15 Thoughts trundling south on the train…

August 3, 2015

The west bank of the Hudson River is a verdant green as the train slowly rumbles south toward New York. It is a bright day, warmer than it has been but still very sweet. I am coming down to New York for a few meetings and a lunch and then am heading home to get ready to go to my friend’s Jeffrey and Joyce’s home on Martha’s Vineyard on Friday.

I’ll linger with them for four or five days and then head back to the Cottage and then down to New York for a meeting on the 13th. Jeffrey calls Martha’s Vineyard “the land of off” and it seems that way though I am not sure how “off” their summers have been since the bought the Edgartown bookstore. It will be interesting to see what changes they have made since I was last there two years ago.

They had ambitious plans and I am sure they have been realized.

The water in the Hudson is browner than usual; the river stirred by the recent rains. It quietly laps the shore. For some reason, it is causing me to think of Lake Harriet in Minneapolis where we’d go as children to swim and sail.

Having spent a few days surrounded by a delicious amount of natural beauty, it seems reasonable that President Obama is issuing today a set of environmental regulations that is intended to reduce, sharply, the amount of greenhouse emissions from power plants. They promise to remake the industry.

There is a controversy happening in Columbia County regarding new power line towers. Most people I know think we don’t need them and intend to fight to stop them from blighting the natural beauty of Columbia County. They are strongly supported by Democratic Governor Cuomo. It is going to be an interesting fight.

And Obama’s regulations will set off a firestorm of lawsuits. Again, it will be interesting to watch. At the end, I suspect there will be change and the lawsuits will determine the extent.

At one point in my life I spent several months in Canada and was impressed with Canadian friendliness. Some Canadian researchers built a “hitchBOT,” a robot that hitchhiked its way across Canada and most of Germany and the Netherlands. He came south two weeks ago to attempt to cross the United States. He was found destroyed beyond repair around Philadelphia, “City of Brotherly Love.” Shame on whoever did this. He was only the size of a six year old and reportedly quite charming.

IS, which is known for its clever and relentless use of the Internet to tell its stories, is now relentlessly cracking down on those inside its territory who are using the Internet. Anyone connecting must now do it through an open network that is being watched. IS is showing signs of fear.

The French are leading the investigation of the wing fragment found on Reunion Island in the western Indian Ocean. Islanders are searching for more debris to see if it might be from the long missing Malaysian Airlines MH370.

The Chinese are having trouble with their escalators. Not so long ago a woman died saving her child in an escalator accident. Today, a man lost his foot and his leg had to be amputated. Both incidents, I believe, happened in Shanghai. Be careful.

Secretary of State John Kerry is making a round of visits to Arabic neighbors, drumming up support for the Iran deal. He seems to be having some success though I am sure it comes at a price, weapons and new pledges to counter Iran.

Donald Trump is still leading in the polls. The Republican mainstream is running in circles, unsure how to counter The Donald. The Koch brothers, rich as could be, with eighty some billion dollars between them, are simply freezing him out. David Koch and Trump are reputedly friendly but the organizations they fund have not given him any opportunities to speak. They own data firm i360, the best data and voter analytics company on the right, and it won’t do business with the Trump Organization.

The big winner at the Box Office was Tom Cruise’s “Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation” which not only claimed the top spot in dollars but also garnered very good reviews.

Without doubt, this is the longest it has ever taken me to get to the city on Amtrak. I have been traveling now for three and a half hours. Traffic ahead. The compensation? The Hudson River is beautiful. I’ve had time to read and write and contemplate.

Letter From New York 01 21 15 After the State of the Union Address…

January 21, 2015

Last night I finished dinner earlier than I had expected and before the State of the Union speech so I headed to the Café du Soleil and secured a place at the bar to watch as several years ago I cut the cord and do not have cable in either the cottage or in the apartment in New York.

The sound was off but I thought I’d be able to read the captions. Unfortunately, they were smaller than I would have liked and I may need to have my eyes examined as it was very hard to read and I caught just bits and pieces and so have spent part of the morning reading about Obama’s penultimate SOTU address.

He was combative, facing a Republican controlled Senate and Congress, coming out as far as I could tell as if he and his party had won the fall elections. But they didn’t. Obama laid out a populist plan for middle class relief paid for by enhancing taxes for the rich and big banks. I don’t think it stands an iceberg’s chance in hell of getting very far but, as I’ve said, he is now looking to his legacy.

It will be interesting to see what the legacy is of this President, elected in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, African-American, relatively untested in government. We will see.

In the meantime, it is early afternoon in the city and I was awoken, once again, by the beep beep beep of a truck backing up outside the apartment. I thought it was my alarm and I woke wondering how I had managed to change the alarm tone on my iPhone.

Even though a great Bose radio sits next to my bed, I use my iPhone as my alarm.

Drinking coffee, I used it to start reading about the world. Many of the stories and articles were exegesis of last night’s speech and I roamed through them. The first nine stories on the NY Times app were devoted to Obama and the speech.

It has been a quiet morning, emails, the Times and coffee. I have missed the quiet of the countryside and my desk which looks out both on the woods and the drive, have missed the deer crossing the yard and the flocks of geese inhabiting the creek but I have had things to do in the city and so I’m here.

It’s a grey, chilly day with promises of snow for tonight though nothing like the snow that paralyzed the city a year ago, something like twelve inches fell then. The tony Upper East Side did not get promptly plowed which caused some to accuse the then newly elected Mayor DeBlasio of waging class warfare.

I think that’s subsided.

Beyond the fallout to the President’s speech, the world has been buzzing on. In France, more police are being hired to fight terrorism. In Germany, the head of the Anti-Islam movement, Pegida, has resigned after pictures of him as Adolf Hitler surfaced. In Japan, Prime Minister Abe is attempting to find a way to save two Japanese citizens from being beheaded. ISIS is demanding $200 million for them.

The Republican race for President is heating up. The Koch brothers, richer together than Bill Gates, are holding an invitation only event for politicians sympathetic to their beliefs. There’s a bum’s rush going on to get there. Though Jeb Bush won’t be; he has scheduling conflicts. Chris Christie is off to Iowa to court that state’s Republicans, hoping for a warm reception to burnish his tarnished star.

And today, the list of worst passwords was released. Apparently, we are not very inventive when it comes to them. The worst? 123456. Second worst: password. Come on, we can do better than that!

So, all in all, it is a rather ordinary day in America, post the SOTU address. We have a lot of talk about it and we have chosen bad passwords. We can do more about one than the other.