Sunday, July 31, 2005

Thinking of Ireland

So the IRA are disarming and renouncing violence.

Right now, we are preoccupied with Islamic terrorists and probably will not appreciate the significance of this development. Even among Irish-Americans there has hardly been a ripple on our consciousness. In the age of Osama, Gerry Adams seems a bit of a leprechaun.

I heard someone on the radio last night -- BBC News -- saying that 3,600 people lost their lives in 30 years of violence -- the Troubles. Loyalist paramilitaries, IRA soldiers, British Troops, the RUC -- killers and defenders and avengers of 800 tragic years of British hegemony in Ireland.

Donald Rumsfeld thinks we'll be in Iraq for 15 years. I wonder how long the Brits thought they would stay in Ireland?

Why have the IRA decided now to lay down their arms? Have they finally exhausted the support of the Catholic people of the north? Or do they expect an imminent victory by political means? What gives?

I don't know and I don't care why the IRA have decided to stand down. All that matters now is that the people of Ireland have taken a step towards a lasting peace.

They have their future now in their own hands. My family have been here in America too long for me to claim much of a connection to a country I have never seen, but my heart is with the Irish today.

As the Irish lay their claim to peace, I am left hoping that some of that spirit may catch fire in the hearts of people elsewhere in the world. The Irish have saved civilization before; perhaps it is not too much to hope that small nation will show the way to peace.

Wishing peace for Ireland and for all of us,


Saturday, July 30, 2005

Music on the 7

Friday rush hour, at the bottom of the escalator to the 7 train platform, at 42nd St and Third, a man on a stool plays electric jazz guitar, accompanied by a recorded drum and organ. He's playing "Can't Buy Me Love" and I am still singing the song today. Last week, he played something by Stevie Wonder, perhaps it was "Ordinary Love"?

The man can play -- I wanted to stop and listen but had to keep moving -- places to be, etc.
Funny how music stays in our minds and rolls over and over. Have you ever heard a familiar song, performed in a fresh and original way, and been astounded?

I am listening to Cassandra Wilson singing the U2 song, "Love is Blindness". Nice arrangement, but the thing that grabs you is Wilson's vocal interpretation -- so unlike Bono that it seems like a new and different song. It's on her recording "New Moon Daughter", if you're curious.

It's a quiet Saturday afternoon. Listening to music, relaxing. Thinking about other U2 songs.

Here's one I like, from "All You Can't Leave Behind". I don't believe in a life hereafter, except in the sense that life and the world will get on without me long after I am gone. But it would be nice to think our love lives on -- that somehow it is not lost or left behind.

It is futile to cling to the things of this world, yet there is no other world; useless to cling to life even though there is no other life to come. Even the people we love are here only for a short time as are we all.

Who can afford to waste time on foolishness and heartache, on pettiness and misunderstanding, on fear and resentment?

Thoughts on a languid summer afternoon.


And love is not the easy thing
The only baggage you can bring...
And love is not the easy thing...
The only baggage you can bring
Is all that you can't leave behind

And if the darkness is to keep us apart
And if the daylight feels like it's a long way off
And if your glass heart should crack
And for a second you turn back
Oh no, be strong

Walk on, walk on
What you got, they can't steal it
No they can't even feel it
Walk on, walk on
Stay safe tonight...

You're packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been
A place that has to be believed to be seen
Youcould have flown away
A singing bird in an open cage
Who will only fly, only fly for freedom

Walk on, walk on
What you got they can't deny it
Can't sell it or buy it
Walk on, walk on
Stay safe tonight

And I know it aches
And your heart it breaks
And you can only take so much
Walk on, walk on
Home...hard to know what it is if you never had one
Home...I can't say where it is but I know I'm going home
That's where the heart is

I know it aches
How your heart it breaks
And you can only take so much
Walk on, walk on
Leave it behind
You've got to leave it behind

All that you fashion
All that you make
All that you build
All that you break
All that you measure
All that you steal
All this you can leave behind
All that you reason
All that you sense
All that you speak
All you dress up
All that you scheme...

Friday, July 15, 2005

Bartleby at DHS

Do you miss Bernard Kerik?

I heard Michael Chertoff (head of DHS -- Dept of Homeland Security) on the radio this morning talking about how the states and cities of America are basically on their own as far as protecting mass transit systems from terrorism -- the feds have no money for this Blue state problem.

Meanwhile New York's MTA -- who run the buses and subways here -- are being chided for having spent about 10% of the $500 million they actually did get from Washington....

Between indifference and incompetence, nothing gets done.

I find the intersection of these stories with the news from London to be much more disturbing than the President's non-response to that August briefing about bin laden planning to attack. After all, here is a very specific threat -- the kind public officials are always complaining they never get -- and not only is nothing being done, but the guy who runs our DHS is on the airwaves saying, in essence "not my job, man".

Chertoff made a point of bemoaning the fact that people riding the MTA system are not responding to the message that they should be vigilant about suspicious packages left in trains and buses and in related public spaces. He was saying how important it is that people are vigilant and observant and ready to report anything out of the ordinary. Can you imagine what it would be like if New Yorkers started phoning in everything they saw that was strange or suspicious? Is he seriously suggesting that people on the train have to take responsibility for security, as if we were in some wild west frontier town without a sheriff?

I thought he and Bush were the sheriff? Did they quit, or as in the case of dear old Bartleby, is it simply their preference not to do their jobs?

Meanwhile, the story from London is that the attacks were perpetrated by suicide bombers who did not leave a bomb lying about in a suspicious package, but carried the bombs on their persons. So all this crap about keeping an eye out for a stray package is rather odd -- at best an incomplete and inadequate response, and more than a little insulting.

Chertoff may not have been paying attention, or maybe as he passed the funding problem to the states and cities, he suddenly realized he needed to dump some responsibility on the poor slob on the train too.

Great strategy, Mike. If my train blows up tomorrow, I will know it's not your fault.

Maybe Mikey would like to go to the UK -- I'm sure the families burying their dead will enjoy hearing from him. At least they will be comforted in the knowledge that their homeland security efforts are not in the hands of such incompetents...

--- Neil

See also my earlier post at The Blue Voice on this subject...