Posts Tagged ‘Lusitania’

Letter From New York 05 07 15 Rolling south on the Anniversary of Lusitania’s sinking…

May 7, 2015

As I write this, I am traveling south on the Northeast Regional Amtrak to Washington, DC, passing through an unattractive industrial zone right this minute. I am going down for a few appointments and to visit my friends, Lionel and Pierre, who are now living in Baltimore. I’ll take a train back up there this evening after I finish my 5:00 meeting.

They have already made dinner reservations at The Oyster House, one of their favorite restaurants.

As I am gliding down to DC the British voters are at the polls to decide who’ll be the next Prime Minister though I rather suspect there is going to some coalition building that will need to be done to form a government. It could all come down to the Scots, who have been surging in the polls and may hold the key to forming a new government, something neither the Tories nor Labour seem to want to contemplate.

The NY Times had an article about unusual polling places in the UK that included a pub and a hairdressing salon. Might be nice to have a vote at the pub, preceded or succeeded by a good draught of ale.

My friend Nick Stuart is going to a party tonight at the British Consulate for expats like him to watch the results. As I recall, Nick told me he tends to vote Liberal Democrat, the party brought in last time by the Tories to form a government.

France just strengthened its surveillance laws while here an appeals court has declared that the NSA, as revealed by Edward Snowden, has gone too far and has ruled its phone data collection illegal.

Tom Brady, quarterback for the Patriots, and arguably the biggest sports star today, has had his luster tarnished by fallout from Deflategate with the NFL saying it was probable that knew the balls were probably being deflated. It’s not a pretty tale.

A pretty tale for Maersk is that their ship, the Tigris, has been released by Iran and its crew is safe. In a sign of de-escalation of tension, the US Navy is no longer escorting American ships through the Straits of Hormuz.

To the west of the Straits of Hormuz is Yemen, now staggering under a humanitarian crisis triggered by the inability of ships to get permission to land their cargoes of food and fuel. Yemen imports 90% of what it consumes and there are at least ten ships laden with goods being prevented from landing by Saudi Arabia. It’s estimated that 80% of the country is going hungry. Anything that does get in finds its delivery delayed by the ongoing fighting, power outages and loss of foreign workers, who have fled the violence.

Continuing to the West, in Africa, disturbing allegations have risen against some of the French forces that were stationed in the Central African Republic last year. At least fourteen soldiers are suspected of having sexually abused minors in a refugee camp. Also disturbing is that it is also alleged that the UN slowed an investigation into the charges while suspending the UN worker who reported the abuse.

My impression of Thailand is generally that of a reasonably gentle country and one that is also reasonably safe. Yet mass graves have been found there. They are believed to contain the bodies of individuals from Myanmar [Burma] and Bangladesh, which had paid smugglers to get them into Thailand. Fifty police officers, some senior in rank, have been transferred from their current jobs to other positions. Eighteen arrest warrants have been issued.

General Prayuth, who runs Thailand after seizing power a year ago [I also forget about the regularity of the coups there] was confronted with the issue almost the moment he came to power but though he promised the US immediate action there was not much movement. Thai officials seem often to be passive about the issue or are actually involved in the game.

If you missed my note about it yesterday, today is the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania. After it was torpedoed, men on the deck exhorted each other to “Be British, boys, be British!” There were 39 babies aboard the Lusitania; only four survived. If you’re interested, I do recommend “Dead Wake,” a book by Erik Larsen chronicling the last voyage of Lusitania.

We are now south of Wilmington, Delaware and the scenery has improved. There is still another hour or so to go. I look forward to seeing Lionel and Pierre’s apartment and to experience a bit of Baltimore.

Letter From New York 05 06 15 One hundred years later…

May 7, 2015

It was a day in which rain was predicted in New York but with the exception of a few sprinkles this morning, the day was dry – cloudy but dry. I had an early morning meeting and then went to have lunch with a business friend. We worked out that we had both been on a panel at Silver Docs down in Maryland back in the early 2000’s. He had wondered where we had met each other.

I had a good catch-up call in the afternoon with a friend, Bill Graff, who has just been chosen to head up the American end of a Chinese Documentary Festival. I was able to give him some leads for speakers.

Then I went to have dinner with Kevin J Malone, whom I refer to as my nephew. He is not. He is the only child of my oldest friend, Sarah, whom I have known since I was about three. He grew up thinking I was another of Sarah’s siblings and went through a small existential crisis at nine or ten when he realized I was not actually a brother of his mother.

We have had an extraordinary relationship. When I first met him, he was nine months old and was lying on the floor next to another baby, cooing for all the world was worth. He was born happy and has remained happy.

For two and a half years he served in the Peace Corps in Zambia where he met the woman who is now his wife, Michelle. I attended their small but wonderful wedding fifteen months ago in DC, where, right now, Kevin is a cog in the wheels of the American Empire. He works at the intersection of Medicare and Medicaid, striving to make the two systems work together. I can only imagine the difficulties.

Tonight, more than ever, I realized he had grown up. It was marvelous to have witnessed his progression from child to adult, an adult that is intellectual, engaged, striving to do good, with good humor and great grace. He is one of the most remarkable human beings I have had the privilege to encounter.

Returning to the little apartment, I sorted the laundry that had returned and sat down to write today’s Letter From New York.

The world is in its usual shambles. To no great surprise.

Netanyahu has managed to form a coalition at the last possible moment and now must present his plan to the Knesset. It is a fragile coalition and is not expected to last for long but who knows what miracles “Bibi” might pull off.

Britain, too, has elections tomorrow and from all accounts the very active betting markets in Britain are flummoxed by this one. No one has an idea on how it is going to turn out. As my friend Caroline Ely pointed out to me, David Cameron should have had this one in the bag but that’s not what happened. His Conservative Party will probably get the most seats but not enough to form a government on its own.

Horse trading will be happening in the UK as it did in Israel today.

In what is not good news for any of us, the numbers of refugees and internally displaced people has risen to the highest number in a generation. Combined, there are over fifty million people who have had to flee their homes because of violence. The ongoing tragedy of these people is unlike anything seen since the end of World War II.

IS is responsible for many of the displaced persons in the world. In Iraq, over two million have fled them as nearly a million have in Nigeria. Count in the numbers who are displaced in Syria, well that’s at least ten percent of the count. But IS has reopened a five star hotel in Mosul for its commanders so they can relax and recuperate. It is being called the “Hotel Caliphornia or the Shariaton.” Seems out of context with the kind of state the Caliphate seems to be working to form.

Tomorrow is May 7th. One hundred years ago tomorrow the Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine. It did not immediately pull the US into World War I but was a contributing factor to the decision to enter the war two years later. Over one hundred Americans perished in the catastrophe out of a total of 1198. “Remember the Lusitania” became a rallying cry in the run up of our involvement in WWI.

Now it is the end of the day and I am headed off to sleep. It’s been a good day if a little disjointed. But aren’t many days like that? Good night.

Letter From New York 03 05 15 In a winter wasteland…

March 5, 2015

As I start to write this, I’m on a northbound Amtrak train, heading back to the cottage after three and a half days in the city. I’m looking forward to being back there. There is paperwork I must organize for the accountant and I will do that this afternoon, cozy with a fire and a good British mystery playing on Acorn TV. The city is a mess. No way around it. A mess. Slushy, heavy snow is falling and tangling traffic and all transit.

My train was late arriving into Penn, coming in swathed in snow and wet. Now we are exiting the tunnels to parallel the West Side Highway before breaking free of Manhattan.

It is wildly beautiful and winter treacherous. Ice floes dot the Hudson.

A Delta flight skidded off the runway an hour ago at LaGuardia, closing the airport.

While having my first cup of coffee this morning and reading the New York Times, I read an article that outlined the depth of Iran’s involvement in Iraq. While I had learned yesterday that an Iranian General was seemingly directing operations, I did not know there were Iranian soldiers on the ground, which apparently there are. The General, Qassim Suleimani, has been described as a stately Osama bin Laden. That is the apparent reason that the US led coalition has not been involved in the advance on Tikrit. It doesn’t want to be seen aiding the Iranians, particularly this General.

At the same time, thousands are fleeing, attempting to reach Samarra for safety.

IS is fighting back, setting oil fields aflame to obscure targets to the Iraqi jets that are pummeling them. They have booby-trapped the roads leading into Tikrit and that is slowing the advance.

In Africa, Boko Haram, under pressure on several fronts, struck back by killing scores in a village in northeast Nigeria.

Late last night Hillary Clinton tweeted she wanted the State Department to release her emails and State says they are reviewing them.

The snow has shut down Washington. Congress called it a week yesterday. President Obama is at the White House, snug I’m sure, with only a briefing and a lunch with Vice President Biden on his schedule.

Everyone is attempting to interpret the questions asked by Supreme Court Justices in yesterday’s hearing about Obamacare. The pundits are working on reading the tealeaves.

Elsewhere in politics, Jeb Bush and other Republican presidential hopefuls are converging on Iowa this week to attend an agricultural forum. While far and away in the lead among donors and Republican centrists, Bush is having trouble breaking through to the rank and file. There is fatigue with the Bush name and Jeb needs to find ways to separate himself from his father and especially his brother.

The World Resources Institute has stated, in its first comprehensive analysis of all the data, that by 2030 there will be a tripling of the number of people affected by river flooding. It is hoping its report will encourage countries to take mitigating measures in the coming years.

May 7th marks the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania. Torpedoed by a German submarine in 1915, the ship sank in just eighteen minutes, taking nearly 1200 people down with her, including 128 Americans, among which was the playboy Alfred Vanderbilt.

The sinking, always surrounded by elements of mystery, became a rallying cry that helped bring America into World War I in 1917. “Remember the Lusitania!” The Lusitania was a Cunard liner and Cunard is hosting a special sailing to note the event.

On board were four million rounds of ammunition. It has long been believed that the ship was also carrying dangerous stores of munitions that were highly unstable. Shortly after the torpedo hit, a second explosion racked the liner and it began to list precipitously. Minutes later it was gone.

To my left, the Hudson River is a white wasteland but the snow has stopped and the weather improved. In a little less than an hour, I’ll be in Hudson and not long after that at the cottage, curled up with my papers to get to the accountant tomorrow.