Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
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
February 21, 2014
Mr. President: Dropping the proposed Claimed Consumer Price Index which reduces
the cost-of-living adjustment in Social Security payments must bring a sigh of relief to
seniors. As it is, the current adjustment excludes items constituting a significant share
of expenses for seniors.
Some claim the motivation is the impending November midterm election. So why not
prove them wrong and support Senator Elizabeth Warren and others pushing to keep
Social Security benefits in line with the rising cost of living. What could be fairer?
One measure of civilization is how a society treats its weakest members. How we rate
must remain an open question.
The Syrian rebels are in turmoil again. On Sunday, the Supreme Military Council
voted to dismiss the military chief General Salim Idriss. Once described by the State
Department as key to a moderate regime, there is now no clear U.S. partner.
Exactly what kind of Syria, the U.S. is striving for has been difficult to understand from
the outset because most unbiased observers believe Bashar Assad would win an
election. It is one reason for the calls for him to step down. But then elected regimes
have never been sacrosanct: From the past the ghosts of Guatemala, Iran, Chile,
etc. linger, and in the present Venezuela and Ukraine come to mind.
This week, it was reported that most demonstrators in the Ukraine are being paid from
200-300 grivna or 15-25 euros per day through NGO proxies including the "Konrad
Adenauer Stiftung" that is closely connected to the Christian Democratic Union --
Angela Merkel's party. Moreover Victoria Neuland, the regional Assistant Secretary of
State, has boasted we have spent $5 billion there.
Additional news on Syria this week shows yet more dissension. The Syrian
Opposition Council has expelled the Syrian National Council which makes up one-fifth
of the coalition's 112-member ruling body. The SNC was the original foreign-based
group and many of its members belong to the Syrian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.
As in Egypt, the latter are supported by Qatar but opposed by Saudi Arabia.
Suspected of an Islamist agenda, their leading role in the opposition was undermined
by the U.S. leading to the original formation of the coalition. The SNC opposes peace
talks and had announced earlier its intention to withdraw from the coalition. Well, at
least both sides agree to the divorce. If these are key players in a future Syria, it's
future seems more Libya than a western style democracy. So we destabilize a
relatively stable secular partner against al-Qaeda, a country that brought stability to
Lebanon after a debilitating civil war. To what end? For their part, the Saudis at least
have a clear aim.
The tenuous borders into which Arab ethnicities were carved, chopped, and arbitrarily
fashioned into colonial states under the Sikes-Picot agreement post WWI have always
been under stress. The worst nightmare is an organic clarification fought tooth and
nail by existing regimes. Iraq is already two countries, fast becoming three. For many
years, it had been held together by a secular Baathist regime through brute force.
Not any more.
Is Syria next? And what of a future Middle-East fixated by a centrality of religion? As
Israel, too, moves away from secularity, are we heading towards religious wars and