Weekly Letter to the President
Copyright © 2017
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
August 23, 2019
Mr. President: Can we believe their claims to represent the ordinary people if Donald
Trump went to private military school and his friend British Prime Minister Boris
Johnson went to Eton, one of England's elite prep schools where he was a King's
Founded by Henry VI to educate 70 poor scholars (poor being a relative term), they
were boarded and educated. Open to competition now, King's Scholars still live
separately, that is, in the College. Intellectually an elite, their fellow Etonians who are
not scholars are labeled oppidans or 'townies'. These pay their way at Eton and
naturally belong to the upper rich tier of society. Not that Boris was not, but it should
be clear by now, he is no fool, despite his tomfoolery.
But even for Boris the Irish gordian knot awaits. He wants to leave Brexit, even
without a deal, and reinstate the border between North and South in Ireland -- a
prospect not at all palatable to southern Ireland's government, or for that matter to
the people. The previous prime minister Theresa May's proposal was to make the
Irish Sea the customs border. But parliament voted it down as it could lead to
Northern Ireland drifting away from the United Kingdom.
Her withdrawal agreement also smoothed out the trade jolts through a transition
period during which other areas like business licenses and residency permits would
be negotiated. The UK then potentially could become like Switzerland, which is like a
member through many mini-agreements without being one.
Boris has been doing the rounds. Angela Merkel had soothing words; Macron in
France was more blunt. There could be a few tweaks to the withdrawal agreement
but the Irish backstop, as the open border is called, was non-negotiable. Where do
we go from here? If anyone thinks it is not relevant to us in the US, pause a moment
to focus on your 401K and imagine what will happen to the stock market with an
untidy breakup carrying severe economic consequences for Britain and costs,
although less, for Europe, particularly Germany with its UK exports.
Making matters worse is the increasingly acrimonious war of words between two close
US allies on the other side of the world: Japan and South Korea. It has led to the
latter abandoning a military intelligence sharing agreement. Bitter feelings from
Japan's colonial past in Korea are never too far beneath the surface and without
Washington's steady hand holding its two important allies together, they have
bubbled up. Trump, so intent on trade issues and lacking diplomatic sophistication,
has become an example for others to emulate, to air differences and to act upon
them. If it leads to chaos, it is Trump's chaos with no one else to blame.
The G7 meeting in Biarritz, a resort in the southwest of France close to the Spanish
border, awaits Trump with memories of his early walk out in Canada at the previous
one never far from anyone's mind. This time Boris Johnson is also there fretting
about Brexit on the side. What can we expect? Not much when Macron, preferring to
err on the side of caution, has already abandoned the customary summit
communique signed by all the members. Trump did find time to slap new tariffs on
China increasing his earlier rates by 5 percent; China responded swiftly, increasing
their tariffs on $75 billion of U.S. goods by an additional 5 or 10 percent selectively.
Trump has clearly chosen to abandon the fig leaves of mutual self-deception that
smooth relations between friends with (sometimes) contradictory interests.