Weekly Letter to the President
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ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
February 16, 2018 (posted Feb 18, 2018)
Mr. President: The scene is the House of Commons; the date May 7, 1940. A simple
motion to adjourn for the ten-day Whitsun recess is of little concern to Prime Minister
Neville Chamberlain who has a comfortable 213 seat majority. Then things take a
turn. A plan approved by the first First Lord pf the Admiralty Winston Churchill to land
troops in Norway and engage the Germans directly has been a disaster with huge
losses, and the eventual naval evacuation of the expeditionary force -- an Arctic
Dardanelles planned by the same man.
Chamberlain rises to defend Churchill and the conduct of the war in what has now
come to be known as the "Norway Debate". In the most unlikely of scenarios and with
no evidence of Winston trying to put his name forward -- in fact the opposite -- when
the tide turns against Chamberlain, within three days as more favored candidates are
shed, he has become prime minister. Such is the parliamentary system. Margaret
Thatcher is another example, toppled shortly after success at the polls.
The American system, however, puts the president beyond such reach other than
through a laborious impeachment. Analogous to the third Roman Emperor Caligula,
Donald Trump, too, has no military or political experience. Caligula made his horse a
senator or some say consul; Trump has the equivalent running government
departments and agencies. Caligula declared himself a god; Trump tweeted he is a
'stable genius.' If Caligula's reign ended with assassination, Trump's will be more
prosaic -- just disaffected voters.
Another mass shooting this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in
Parkland, Florida. Seventeen are dead and many more injured. The gunman,
identified as Nikolas Cruz, used an AR-15 assault type rifle, a weapon far deadlier
than a pistol -- perhaps he watched the coverage of the Las Vegas shooting. He was
a former pupil who had been suspended from the school, and who students recalled
as disturbed and scary.
President Trump in his remarks following the incident did not bring up the obvious
question of why an AR-15 was so easily available for purchase. Gun owners and the
gun lobby are part of his constituency.
Following a mass shooting in April 1996 when a man armed with two semi-automatic
rifles killed 35 people in Port Arthur, Tasmania, the Australian government put
together strict gun laws. They were supplemented with a mandatory gun-buyback
program through which 650,000 firearms were destroyed. Did the program work?
The data tells the story more vividly: From 1979 to 1996, Australia suffered 13 mass
shootings; since 1997 it has had none.
Under his usual theme of 'guns don't kill people, people kill people', President Trump
continues to talk about finding ways to deal better with disturbed people. The sure
Australian way is to stop them acquiring guns.
Lost in the Florida school story was another shooting the same day when
trigger-happy guards let loose at a National Security Agency entrance. The forested
area is a confused mass of entries and exits. It has happened before that somebody
inadvertently makes a wrong turn and panics when faced with shouting armed
guards. In this incident, bullet holes can be seen in the windshield and the three men
in the car were injured.
Introducing the Gates Foundation's annual philanthropic letter a few days ago, Bill
and Melinda Gates appealed to Donald Trump to not cut foreign aid -- "even a 10
percent cut could lead to 5 million deaths in the next decade", Bill Gates warned. Will
President Trump listen?
Despite the many wonderful aspects the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, when
it comes to jettisoning incompetent leaders, it is difficult to best the parliamentary
system for immediacy.