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
April 1, 2016
Mr. President: Today is April Fools Day though this letter, possibly the first to be
dated April 1, is deadly serious. It discusses the much vaunted freedom of our press
and the news it disseminates. As the press has become part and parcel of large
business corporations, in one way or another beholden to the government, it supports
the latter's agenda. Moreover, the administration brings pressure to bear for its
version of events by restricting access to reporters not toeing the line, who learn early
enough to do so if they wish to get ahead. So we have an establishment, catering to
and part of an oligarchy, which ignores the wishes of the people and molds its
perceptions. This week has been particularly egregious.
Bernie Sanders won six of the last seven primaries and the seventh used doubtful
tactics like restricting facilities in areas with a younger voter population. Yet does
anyone know. His stunning trail of wins has been reported in a manner that a
not-too-careful scanner of the news would believe Hillary
Clinton had won because the focus was on her leading the delegate vote count.
Last Sunday, the historic Roman city of Palmyra associated with Empress Zenobia
(who led a successful revolt against Rome capturing a large swath of territory
including Egypt and parts of Anatolia before being defeated) was finally recaptured by
the Syrian army aided by their Russian allies. This city and its historic ruins and
artifacts were all in the news when ISIS seized it last May (2015), yet the recapture
has been ignored by the media here. The Independent newspaper in London carried
the story reported by renowned Middle East journalist Robert Fisk; then CNN had a
brief note on it four days ago. If we are supposed to have a common front against
ISIS, why are Washington and the media silent about a great victory and a significant
reversal for ISIS? Simple: Russia and Syria are 'bad guys' and must never be seen
to be doing any good -- not if the government wants public support for confronting
The best way to pervert democracy is to withhold information from the voters and
shape their views by selective dissemination of news and events. It is appalling how
the word Muslim has become a dirty word, smearing over a billion of the world's
population, in this once well-educated country.
And it is the result of the response to brutal interventions across the Middle East and
northern Africa killing hundreds of thousands, displacing millions, and now
destabilizing the EU in an unanticipated outcome. It has also led to political extremists
using religion to further a shocking intolerance, and an agenda, at the very least,
derisive for a twenty-first century world.
The Christians now being targeted have lived in majority Muslim lands for millennia;
Palmyra has stood there since the third century; so who is actually responsible?
Certainly not Islam which spread fourteen hundred years ago and allowed freedom of
faith to Christians and Jews in Spain and across the Middle East. But ask an
American and the answer will not be a surprise. How did religious bigotry become our
As an afterthought ... what happened to the Muslim and Jews in Spain after the
Christian reconquest? Answer: the inquisition, and the invention of the 'truth cure' ...
finally coming to the US via the Spanish Philippines as waterboarding.
The Toner Prize honoring excellence in political reporting was awarded on Monday,
and our president had harsh words for journalism in this election cycle -- candidates
getting away with playing fast and loose with the truth ... Trump again. But the story
changes when the shoe is on the other foot:
According to the Associated Press this administration has set a new record in the
percentage of redacted files or for offering nothing at all in response to FOIA
It has used the Espionage Act seven times (at least) to punish whistle-blowers; in
the century of its existence the act had previously been used only three times and
was never intended for this purpose when enacted in the First World War to deal with
It allows the DEA to charge $1.4 million for a requested search of its records on El
Chapo, the drug kingpin.
It spent seven years trying to force James Risen of the New York Times to reveal his
sources, and accused James Rosen (Fox News) of being a co-conspirator to obtain a
secret warrant to read his emails.
Everyone wants the press to tell their version of a story but few also indulge in