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
March 22, 2013
Mr. President: Negotiating the Middle East minefield has tripped many a peace-maker
and disintegrated numerous peace plans. Given the fractional representation allowed
in the Israeli electoral system, the resulting extremist parties, and hence a
government now that is even more right wing than the last, the sight of Mr. Netanyahu
apologizing to the Turkish Prime Minister (having vowed never to do so) in a phone
call from a hastily constructed temporary space while Air force One prepared to take
off was almost unbelievable. Sometimes you win when you lose -- Israel's apology
versus the risks of isolation -- and vice versa -- the U.S. in Iraq.
The Brown University study on the Iraq war conducted by 30 academics and experts,
and released just ahead of the March 19th tenth anniversary, estimates the cost at $2
trillion and rising to over twice that as veterans' benefits and interest on the debt
incurred mount. In Iraq itself ten bombings around Baghdad killing 56 and wounding
more than 200 marked the anniversary; Iran remains the most influential power. In
place of a secular Iraq, ethnic divisions are being seared into the the minds of the
If we add the costs of the Afghanistan and Pakistan wars, the eventual cost estimated
by the same study is in the region of $10 trillion dollars. What an enormous waste of
resources and a tragedy of lost lives and devastation?
The American Society of Civil engineers has again issued a report on our
infrastructure. It has lifted its overall grade from D to D+ you will be pleased to hear,
but it is a long way from where we should be. The general rule for an economy to be
competitive and grow requires strength in infrastructure, education and skills, and
Our rail systems are a half-century behind; roads and bridges in disrepair; we are
saddling our university graduates with huge debt. Students are so strapped, there
are dozens of charity food pantries catering to their needs in college towns. It is
shameful because these young men and women represent our future.
Why can't we marry the millions of unemployed to the untended infrastructure in
programs bringing together the Federal Government, States and business for the
common good? The interstate system built in the fifties spawned capillaries that gave
birth to suburbs and shopping malls bringing goods and services, leading to
demand-led growth and a half-century consumer boom. It also fed on fossil fuels.
The new era will require green energy. To start, we can (like Germany now) start
installing solar panels on every roof. The Germans are on the way to producing 35
percent of their energy from green sources within a decade. The next step is linkage
and storage of this energy and its integration into a grid; a network of charging
stations for electric cars and fuel cell vehicles. Electric cars are already on the
market, and longer range fuel cell vehicles are coming -- Daimler Benz is introducing
a model, possibly as early as next year.
Unfortunately, our efforts are scattershot in comparison. Shall we join or lead the
energy revolution, or will we forever be playing catch-up?