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 28, 2014
Mr. President: It has been a busy week capped with a visit to Saudi Arabia today.
Perhaps you are not aware that the Saudis executed three men for homosexual acts
in 2013. The Russians don't even come close, and you were sending them a
message on the subject at the Sochi Winter Olympics (which in all honesty turned out
to have the most magnificent and memorable opening and closing ceremonies in
Returning to Saudi Arabia: Mr. Ali Ahmed Asseri, one of their Consular Officials in
Los Angeles was outed as gay by one of his colleagues. He was immediately
suspended and ordered home. Fearing execution, he sought asylum. Now that was
a few years ago. So the obvious question: What is causing the delay?
While the G7 was busy expelling Russia at your behest, one must wonder at the
political hot air. To take the biggest European player as an example, Germany has
$36 billion in trade with Russia. This generates 300,00 jobs through export of
machine tools, automobiles, etc. Germany also imports cheap gas. Can it afford to
lose these jobs or switch such an interconnected trade link overnight? Of course
not. If it tries, will Russia sit idly by and wait? The primary Russian gas fields of
Urengog and Yamburg are about as far from China as Europe, and we all know how
hungry China is for energy.
The UN General Assembly voted against Russia yesterday by a bare majority
garnering 100 votes out of 190. However the world has noted several previous
resolutions running 190 for and only 2 against where we were on the losing side.
Since the Crimeans are predominantly Russian and preferred to join a growing
economy instead of IMF austerity measures, one is left uncertain of the vote's moral
imperative, particularly in view of our own cavalier response in the past.
One consequence of outsider imposed belt-tightening is separatist movements. In
Italy's case, it is the EU claiming to put its economic house in order. As austerity
measures bite, rich provinces become less inclined to support the poor ones. Italy's
Northern League, a separatist group, has long called for discarding the Roman yoke.
Their advocacy has finally had some success. The Veneto region including Venice
has just voted to secede. However, actual secession requires much more, and
Veneto does not have adjoining kin to look for assistance.
Not so in Kashmir where a long insurgency has cost over a 100,000 lives. The
Kashmiris live under draconian emergency laws (a leftover of British colonial rule)
imposed by the Indian government and enforced by the Indian military. The latest
incident is the severe punishment of students because they cheered for the Pakistan
team at a cricket match. No surprise then that India has refused to carry out the
plebiscite required by the UN brokered ceasefire agreement over a half-century past.
Perhaps the answer is autonomy for Kashmir with free access to both sides.
Two-thirds of India lives miserably on less than $2 per day. Not much of an
achievement in the seventh decade of independence. The enormous burdens of
military expenditure and corruption take their toll on the helpless and hapless poor
while the rich flaunt their wealth in obscene display.
Yet the U.S. has done nothing to heal this festering sore. Now that each side has a
hundred nuclear weapons, a miscalculation could have disastrous ecological
consequences for the region and the world.
If you want a lasting legacy, Mr. President, this is about the only remaining possibility.