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
July 5, 2013
Mr. President: We have watched the parades; we have enjoyed the games in village
and town parks; we have watched the fireworks; we have celebrated Independence
Day - the glorious July Fourth. Independence means freedom, in this case freedom
from the English -- sometimes it seems half the world celebrates freedom from the
English, even Scotland will be trying next year to throw off London's yoke.
The question to ask ourselves (even yourself, for in three years you, too, become a
private citizen) is whether anyone who knows he is bugged can really be free. Will he
subconsciously exercise censorship? And those (especially politicians) who are only
now aware they too were bugged ... are they susceptible to blackmail? Pure
conjecture perhaps, but it helps to explain President Francois Hollande's oddly
First, Mr. Hollande was the only European condemning the PRISM bugging program
himself directly -- the others used spokesmen. Then he turned around and denied
French airspace to the Bolivian President Evo Morales' jet returning from an oil and
gas conference in Moscow. Spain, Portugal and Italy also refused overflight. The
plane, stranded, running short of fuel, was then allowed to land in Vienna where it was
searched because of a rumor that Edward Snowden was aboard. He was not, and
after heated negotiations over 14 hours the plane flew to the Canary Islands where
Spain had finally granted landing permission to refuel. Whatever happened to
diplomatic immunity, international law and the like in our new post-1984 world?
But here's the rub: instead of just the tabloid press bugging a besotted Prince
Charles' phone calls to his then mistress (now wife), we are more likely to have young
contractor employees listening in on a louche Bill Clinton, or even an ex-President's
daughters' calls to their boyfriends. Who will put this genie back in the bottle?
It also turns out that the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where Julian Assange is
holed up, has been bugged by the British, and the U.S. is bugging E.U. embassies. It
used to be that a walk in the park was the safe way to have a private conversation in
the former Soviet Union; how the tables have turned ...
And Julian Assange's asylum has yet another twist on a Soviet era story. On
November 4, 1956, Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty arrived at the U.S. Embassy Chancery
in Budapest and requested asylum. He went on to live there for the next 15 years
using the ambassador's office as a reception area and sleeping in an adjacent room;
shameful for the Soviet system then in everyone's eyes. If only we could see the
mirror images now, blurred but barely (and not for want of trying) by context.
As someone observed recently: if we were all asked to carry a tracking device by the
National Security Agency we would be appalled, yet we carry cell phones; if we were
told to send a copy to the NSA every time we email, we would be shocked, but that is
already the case ...
Ari Fleischer (President George W. Bush's press secretary) tweeted recently: "Drone
strikes. Wiretaps. Gitmo. [Guess who] is carrying out Bush's 4th term." Thus in
Tanzania, at the conclusion of your African tour, the meeting with George and Laura
Bush, far from appearing incongruous, makes eminent sense ... plus ca change ...