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
August 23, 2013
Mr. President: This week Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years. He was
acquitted of the charge of "aiding the enemy", a charge carrying a life sentence. If he
was not aiding the enemy, then what was the purpose of his espionage? The law
seems to observe a rationale all its own. In all that I have read about the case, no
one has been able to show any real damage to this country. The documents have
been embarrassing certainly -- particularly for our diplomats and many of our allies.
But then who is really surprised with the hypocrisy of diplomats? As for our allies ...
The latest story blaming the use of sarin gas on the Syrian government beggars
belief. According to it the Syrian government invites UN investigators, then employs
chemical weapons just six miles from their hotel. Whatever the government might be,
it is certainly not mad. Why would they use these weapons when they have adequate
conventional firepower? Worse for the rebels, the weapon in the incident the
government asked the UN to investigate carried the unmistakable signature of an
Over a thousand people have been killed in Egypt; yet, no outrage in the American or
European press. Why? Why cannot people express their anger at the overthrow of
an elected government without being shot by the military? The Turkish leader, Mr.
Recep Erdogan, claims the coup was engineered by Israel. Our ally and oft proxy,
Saudi Arabia, promptly dispensed $10 billion in aid shortly thereafter. In a week that
acitizenshiplso featured additional disclosures of our role in the six-decades old
Iranian coup deposing the elected parliamentary government of Mr. Mossadegh, one
hopes our hands are clean this time.
In the meantime, the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims continues unabated in
Myanmar. In a disgusting perversion of Buddhism it is led by some monks. But where
are the leaders? Oh, they are the ones who took away their citizenship years ago
rendering them stateless, even though they had lived there for centuries (some of
them longer than the U.S. has been in existence). Perhaps a phone call to your fellow
Nobel Peace Laureate is in order for the much feted Aung San Suu Kyi's lips are
sealed on the issue. Or is it that no one cares about tens of thousands having homes
burnt, driven off their ancestral lands, dead men women and children, until it is
For the first black President, some statistics are particularly troubling: For example,
99 percent of all U.S. private assets are owned by white or Asian Americans. Yet
blacks constitute 25 percent of the population and Hispanics a similar number
(although the statistics for the latter are cloudy because some Hispanics are white).
The poverty figures, income inequality, are all worse -- the least affected by the
recession of 2008 are the top one percent.
The banks are larger, much larger after mergers to absorb the most troubled ones,
and their gambling addiction has not dissipated. Why would it when taxpayers pay for
their losses? J P Morgan Chase's losses in the billions last year provided ample proof
of the dangers.
So what has changed as we wait for the next financial catastrophe? Precious little,
and most observers believe it is a question of 'when' not 'if'.
There is, however, a bill being introduced by Senators Warren and McCain to restore
Glass-Steagall. It is vehemently opposed by the banking lobby. It is also probably
your last shot at a worthwhile legacy (foreign policy offers little on the horizon and
nothing from the past). The alternative is toeing the Wall Street line as before and
mumbling about a changed banking environment.
My bet is you will continue down the path of missed opportunity, following discredited
Harvard economists all the way to a comfortable retirement not unlike your Democrat
predecessor. But I could be wrong. I certainly hope so.