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
May 24, 2013
Mr. President: Three and a half months into the hunger strike at Guantanamo, and it
is finally having some effect. What options are there? Not too many other than
release the ones who have been in a prison without charges for over a decade; and
try the others -- in many cases with compromised evidence due to torture. Simply
moving all of them here is not a solution because they are not on a hunger strike
seeking a change of location. In any event, there are going to be scores of extremely
embittered men -- many innocent and still tortured, some like a Mr. Allawi who was
shot at close range with rubber encased bullets according to his lawyer -- holding a
deep grudge against the U.S. They like the innocent victims of war in a horrific
century, a tragic consequence of human failure: most usually of character.
The theme recurs in Greek tragedies and in Shahnama -- The Book of Kings, a
Persian epic based on folklore and legend brought together as a 60,000 verse tome
a thousand years ago by Firdausi. It has been published in a prose translation this
year, beautifully illustrated, and a reminder also, if one was needed, of the age and
durability of Persian civilization.
There is another new book "The Drone and the Thistle" by Akbar Ahmed of American
University. A Pashtun himself, he is the former ambassador equivalent of Pakistan to
the U.K.; and prior to that in a long civil service career also served as the
government's administrator in the tribal areas including Waziristan. As such, he is
uniquely qualified to assess the impact of drones on tribal society and culture. The
numerous plaudits for the book include one from the noted religious scholar, Karen
Armstrong, who calls it "required reading for those working in the media, policy
making and education." The statistic hard to forget in that 92% of the people do not
know why American soldiers are there. No 'whys' are needed to rid their land of an
unwelcome presence, who also happen behave in a manner alien to their norms.
This week the CEO of Apple was up before Congress defending his company's policy
of using tax havens to avoid paying U.S. income taxes almost completely. According
to John Christensen the Director of the Tax Justice Network, the problem is tax
havens, not Apple and others like it who are merely minimizing taxes quite legally.
The G20 and G8 countries need to move forward promptly with an agenda for
automatic information exchange, plus a root-and-branch reform of the system is
required so that corporations pay taxes where the economic substance of their
activities lie. Apple can not pretend their profits are generated in Bermuda or the
Cayman Islands or whatever tax haven they choose. Worse still, more and more
upper middle class taxpayers like doctors, dentists, etc. are also discovering the
benefits of tax havens, and predictions for lost revenue are troublesome. Meanwhile,
the tax burden continues to be shifted from the rich to the ordinary person adding to
the sustained movement to inequality.
P.S. Another bridge collapsed. This time on the I-5 in Washington State after one of
the girders got a tap from an oversize load. Any chances of a serious effort to restore
infrastructure recently graded D+ by the Americ an Society of Civil Engineers.