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
June 16, 2017 (posted June 18, 2017)
Mr. President: Arnold Turling is a very angry and unhappy man -- vindicated but at
what cost. Three years ago, he advised the All Party Parliamentary Rescue Group
that cheap flammable insulation filler inside the new waterproof cladding and lack of a
sprinkler system made buildings like Grenfell Tower a disaster waiting to happen. Mr.
Turling is a Chartered Surveyor as well as a fire expert and member of the
Association of Specialist Fire Protection. He adds the building would not have burned
down in its original concrete form.
The reason is straight forward: The gap between the cladding and concrete serves
as a chimney which becomes more efficient as the insulation catches fire. For this
reason that particular type of plastic core called PE is banned in the U.S., "because of
the fire and smoke spread," for buildings higher than 40 feet. So said a spokesman
for the U.S. manufacturer Reynobond. The P.E. version he added is used for small
commercial buildings and gas stations. In the UK, the fire resistant panels cost 24
pounds ($31) per square meter, the cheaper ones are two pounds ($2.56) less. The
regulations allowing the latter were introduced in 1986 during the Margaret Thatcher
era, when they relaxed the prior more strict code.
If the previous iron lady is still wreaking havoc from the grave, the new one did not
endear herself to the bereaved by avoiding them when she visited the area -- she met
only with emergency services. Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, on the other hand,
hugged and was hugged as he called for requisitioning the empty housing belonging
to the rich to accommodate the people who had lost everything in the fire.
The borough of Kensington and Chelsea is enormously rich. Council estates, as
public housing is called in London, occupy a fringe of it and offer affordable places to
live in a city where real estate has experienced an astronomical rise.
Theresa May has promised an independent public inquiry. Not much use now to the
dead and their relatives though could help others in the future perhaps through a
reversion to the tighter codes. The residents complained about the lack of fire safety
for many years, including faulty wiring, to no avail. Is there a lesson in all this for our
own deregulator-in-chief, or will he too become an eventual grim reaper?
Prime Minister May has other problems more serious for her government as they
threaten to cut short its existence. Her alliance with the Northern Ireland DUP is at
risk. Gerry Adams the Catholic Sinn Fein leader has protested it violates the power
sharing Good Friday agreement where London was to be the neutral arbiter. Thus
most people assumed the deal with the DUP was informal. Now it seems someone is
holding out for a formal alliance. Strong voices can be heard calling it a sordid deal
that could destroy 20 years of work in Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, Gerry Adams
says his party will refuse to take their seats in the new parliament if it goes through.
Ms. May gives the impression of being busily ahead of a Rube Goldberg contraption
tumbling down behind her.
The question one is left with after the fire is simple if uncomfortable: What is a human
life worth in the 21st century? And the answer now is apparent. It depends on where,
how wealthy, and to whom you were born. Not much has changed in that regard.