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
March 15, 2019 (posted March 17)
Mr. President: Does anyone remember Nigel Farage? He led the UK Independence
Party and the 'leave' EU vote -- along with his last minute ally Boris Johnson who
hoped to push himself up to prime minister. Farage is still around as a Member of the
European Parliament representing south-east England, a job soon to be redundant
when Britain leaves the EU. Boris is still in parliament ... and still unlikely to be prime
In the meantime, there is no clear majority for any deal in the British parliament. A
major sticking point is Northern Ireland, an integral part of the UK. Leaving the
European customs union would mean a border in Ireland separating the north from
the rest. This is anathema to the Irish who have become used to living with an open
border. The Northern Ireland MPs in Westminster will vote as a block against any
deal that does not maintain it.
But the majority of Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservatives want out of the EU
customs union. Hence the deal she came up with, which was to make the Irish Sea a
border. It meant leaving Northern Ireland in the customs union (i.e. an open border)
and the rest of Britain outside. Unfortunately for her, a parliamentary majority
including the opposition Labor party were against such a customs division within the
UK that might also in the future bring Northern Ireland closer to Europe.
One of the principal motivators for Farage's UKIP and its allies is seldom discussed. It
has much in common with the reason for Donald Trump's wall, and it was the reason
the first British politician meeting the newly minted President Trump was Nigel
Farage. Trump had in mind his prospective wall, and after winning the 'leave' vote
Farage had the English Channel; both barriers for the unwanted: Escapees from the
chaos (often US caused as in Honduras) in Central America in one case; southern
and eastern European migrants in the other after the EU embraced these new
The desperation of many of these migrants forced to remain on the Mexico side of the
US border was poignantly evident in a documentary broadcast on March 12 by the
Public Television network on its evening PBS Newshour program. The processing
slowdown engineered by this administration, blamed on lack of staff, has caused
waiting times in months. Little children have to beg during the day and single mothers
sell themselves at night for families to have food to eat.
After losing the vote on the deal she had negotiated, Ms. May brought forward a vote
on a no-deal exit. Amended to a no-deal ever, the motion was defeated, as was a
subsequent one on a simple no-deal; this time by an even larger majority. The day
following, she actually won a vote: the government won a motion to ask the EU for a
Brexit extension from March 29 to June 30, if the May deal passes next week.
Otherwise they will have to request a longer delay.
How fractious the issue is, was evident. Half of Mrs. May's Conservative Party voted
against her including eight ministers; a Labor Party amendment for a second Brexit
referendum was voted down 85 to 334 after many labor members including some
shadow ministers voted against, tendering their resignations as a result. Parliament
and the country are split on the issue.
Meanwhile, Donald Tusk, the Polish president of the EU Council, announced he is in
favor of a long extension and will ask EU leaders to consider it. Also Germany is in
favor of a soft Brexit. Perhaps the one million Poles now in Britain and Germany's
exports have something to do with it.