So sad to hear that John Kelso finally left us, after so many struggles with cancer. He has been an Austin favorite since my senior year at McCallum High, and even though he was born (to his great disgust) in Oklahoma and raised in Maine, he exemplified more than maybe anyone else what it meant to be an Austinite. Perhaps one of my favorite columns he wrote came after the French began complaining about the ash cloud that swept across the planet after the Mt. St. Helens eruption. While other Americans were leading boycotts against baguettes and renaming French Fries to Freedom Fries, Kelso proposed loading up giant military cargo planes with table salt and dumping it all across France, killing all the snails and thereby starving the French people into submission. ‘Course, when I say it, it doesn’t sound funny… You will be missed, John.
My good friend Dr. Janice Smith just returned from an investigational trip to Haiti, the first step in leading a medical mission to that beleaguered country, and what she discovered was startling. Haiti leads the world in maternal and infant deaths during and incident to childbirth, and most of those deaths can be traced directly to the practice of cutting the umbilical cord with an unsterilized machete. Vaccination against tetanus and other common infectious diseases is almost nonexistent there, and infection sets in very quickly. By simply providing caregivers with two pieces of string and a sterile razor blade, these senseless deaths can be cut in half, if not more. It reminds me of the 1973 book Small is Beautiful, a collection of essays by E.F. Schumacher, which explored how very small improvements can have a tremendous and lasting impact on third world economies. A great lesson for all of us to remember, the impact of even the smallest courtesy on the lives of those around us…
More on this as we move forward on the mission trip.
I prefer to stay out of the thick of things in terms of political intrigue. If you offer an opinion on how things will be or should be, all too often you are wrong. But as a student of constitutional law – a REAL student of constitutional law – I am greatly disturbed by the noise that is wafting from the White House these days. POTUS has declared that he has an unlimited capacity to pardon himself and his family for offences against the United States. And that declaration raises Constitutional issues that cannot be ignored. The real problem, as the greatest Constitutional scholar of our times has often declared, is that our Constitution is painfully detailed about issues that matter very little to the Republic, and painfully obtuse as to issues that define the very essence of our democracy.
If a President can pardon himself or those closest to him with no oversight or consequence, what could stop him or his family from committing a flagrant and unprosecutable murder, or, in this case, possible treason against his country? In a nation that more than any other defines the boundaries of human conduct by a reliance on the rule of law, how can we accept the concept that one man (or woman) is above the law. That one man is a law unto himself. We fought the Revolution to throw off the cloak of imperial obeisance, and it should be clear that our Founding Fathers never contemplated that the President of this Republic would ever place himself beyond the rules that bind us all together. And yet this President has clearly indicated a willingness to do just that.
We can all hope that this is all just blustering. Just posturing. That this nation will never have to face the heart rending possibility that our Commander in Chief has elevated himself to Caesar. This is an issue that our own Constitution in all its flaws has never foreseen, has never anticipated. We can all only hope that the long tradition that held President Clinton in check, that allowed General Haig to forestall President Nixon’s access to the nuclear launch codes, serves us once again. And, regardless of where you or any other person stands in this great political stalemate, we can all only hope that truth and justice continues to reign over our great country.