Weekly Letter to the President
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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
April 12, 2019
Mr. President: The depressing Israeli election is over -- a choice between the right
and the hard right. No room for Israeli Arabs or Palestinians who were encouraged to
stay away in this "only democracy" in the Middle East. Of course, Egypt tried to be a
real one, but the result was not to its paymaster's liking. What can the Palestinians
do? Well, they are not going to get any help from the present Republican occupant
of the White House and good chum of Netanyahu. The latter trying to erase Arab
identity through Israel's new and notorious nation-state law can only work with a
manageable Arab population. Doubtless the Palestinians are aware the best course
for them is demographics, as in South Africa.
Another election is underway, this time in India with its colossal 900 million electorate.
Narendra Modi, close buddy of Netanyahu, and fellow nation-state afficionado
probably wants a similar declaration where instead of a land for Jews, he wants a land
for Hindus -- correction, upper-caste Hindus -- or a true Hindustan.
Unfortunately for him, the economy is in a mess and his economic growth plan has
worked about as well as how the rest of his ideas did in recent history. Think of
1930s Germany. Lucky for him he faces an ineffective opposition leader. India is a
parliamentary democracy, so voters will choose representatives to the legislature
where the majority will pick the prime minister.
When farmers are angry with low crop prices, the young are facing high
unemployment and the economy has lost its high pace of expansion, what is one to
do? There's always the bogeyman, Pakistan, although its leader a former sportsman
keeps talking peace. No matter, Narendra Modi wants it to be a threat and recalls the
'success' of his military adventure that violated past norms -- India lost two fighter
planes, a pilot who was captured and returned, and a bomb that fell in a forest area
(to which reporters were taken recently), but Modi's successes are defined by him.
As long ago as the 18th century, Samuel Johnson described the situation with his
usual brevity when he said, 'Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.' In our
modern world, the latter is a politician.
To the land of India's former masters, and Johnson's too, we have Theresa May the
Prime Minister back from a trip to the EU meeting principal leaders. Germany was
kind, France a little less. In any case, she received a deadline extension to October
31, more than she asked for as she wishes to avoid the EU elections on May 23. Not
much has changed other than her attempts to seek help from the Labor opposition. If
the voting groups in Parliament have not changed, what can we expect? Hence, the
distinct possibility of another referendum.
Also in England and in a blow to whistleblowers, Julian Assange was ejected from the
Ecuadorian embassy and arrested by London police. He was later found guilty of
failure to surrender to the court in 2012. One might recall, Sweden wanted him for a
sexual assault charge and the U.S. still wants to try him for 'conspiring to access
classified information' which can put him in jail for five years.
This is the charge being used by the U.S. to ease extradition. Other charges like
spying and being a foreign agent can put him behind bars for many years more but
have been purposely avoided because of British skepticism of American justice.