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
September 30, 2016
Mr. President: Positive Train Control (PTC) is a system designed to stop running
trains, trains running into each other or into barriers and so on. It is in effect a
modern collision avoidance technology available yet not implemented. It could also
have stopped the New Jersey Transit train from slamming into the barrier at Hoboken
Terminal. While the system has been mandated for main line freight and passenger
trains, it is not required for commuter rail, and just another example of outdated
The failure of the administration to begin a substantial overhaul of infrastructure is a
failure not only for the people but towards a true legacy item -- particularly as
insurance companies are starting to abandon Obamacare.
The week has seen a spate of multiple killings and incidents of road rage leading to
murder are also increasing at an alarming rate. Just today the Eisenhower
Expressway in your adopted hometown of Chicago was closed for two hours in the
morning because a man killed another driver and severely wounded a female
passenger after an altercation. Here's the shocker: a few hours after the expressway
re-opened, there was another road-rage killing on it.
One obvious cause points to the new concealed-carry rules being promulgated by
legislators permitting handguns in vehicles. Add to it delays caused by decaying
infrastructure (closed lanes undergoing repairs and so forth) leading to frayed nerves
and angry drivers. What's more the constant killing in the news at home and abroad
serves to make it a commonplace instead of a horrendous act. And there we have it,
an armed and ready time-bomb waiting to go off.
A new international study by the Legatum Institute ranks the U.S. at #33 in 'Safety and
Security', behind all developed countries. It is no surprise. It is also ranked #15 in
'Personal Freedom' while Canada earns top place.
The almost daily multiple-killings recently, led this author to Wikipedia, which divides
them into several categories. One of them should give pause. In the section labeled
'Religious, political or racial crimes' eight events are listed for the U.S., all since 2012
except for an arson and firearm incident in 1972.
What has this administration done to precipitate an orgy of such crimes, seven in total
and surpassed only by Israel, once secular though now, sadly, a haven of bigotry?
The only difference from the past is U.S. involvement in multiple never-ending wars
causing dreadful destruction, record disruptive displacements and civilian casualties
-- so many countries devastated in such a short space of time.
And so appropriately to a funeral: Uri Avnery the prominent peace activist, who
fought for Israel's independence and was severely wounded, once wrote (and I
paraphrase). In those days no one wore a kippa. It would have been considered
backward in a forward-looking socialist milieu. He decried the now bearded,
kippa-wearing Israeli soldiers spewing religious hatred. The incident evoking his
outrage was of a seriously wounded Palestinian lying helpless, denied medical aid
while minor Israeli injuries were being tended to, and then being finished off with a
shot to the head.
So was it a surprise to see a kippa-wearing black American president eulogizing the
late Shimon Peres? Some leaders were wearing kippas, others not. The French
president was certainly not, given France's war on religious symbols. Suffice to say
that religiosity, as opposed to private faith, polarizes diverse populations.
The aforementioned Uri Avnery, who knew Shimon Peres for decades, had a
revealing and balanced article tracing his biography from the age of 10! It was written
on September 23, just after Peres had the stroke that lead eventually to his death a
week or so later. Robert Fisk was less generous in Britain's The Independent
recalling the Qana incident and talking about wading through a stream of blood. He
was there shortly after, and can not forget it.
Peace is anathema to war, and war begets violence. The sages have it right when
they tell us: As we sow, so shall we reap ...