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
October 18, 2013
Mr. President: This letter predicted last week, "... the budget ... to be settled
temporarily by the debt ceiling deadline." While the stock market suffered some
flutters, there was no major gyration, and, after the initial jubilation at the prospect of
imminent agreement on Capitol Hill, it has settled into an uncomfortable malaise.
The fact is the Congress and the Executive need to act; we need responsible fiscal
policy that addresses the long-term issues of crumbling infrastructure; K-12 education
policy that addresses the real problems instead of just blaming the teachers; the
overhaul of a regressive tax code contributing to the deficit; the issues of chronic
under employment and unemployment, plus a minimum wage that does not have
someone working a full forty-hour work week living in poverty; and we need skilled
worker training, particularly for the modern factory floor; all of it designed towards
restoring U.S. competitiveness and its manufacturing base -- dollar depreciation to
bring back jobs, making everyone poorer, is certainly not the optimum way. There is
nothing on the horizon from Washington, and no one speculating anything fruitful
The farce this week has been Saudi Arabia's refusal to take up its Security Council
seat as a protest on the Council's inaction vis-a-vis Syria. Of course, Syria was leaps
and bounds ahead of it in social development and religious tolerance until outside
proxies boiled and stirred the pot. Now it is being gradually dismembered, its
infrastructure in ruins with repair estimates ranging from $30 trillion to figures vastly
above. Syrian refugees continue to flee to neighboring countries as another winter
approaches and the camps are woefully unprepared.
The other ongoing refugee tragedy is off the Italian island of Lampedusa. Most of the
refugees there come from Africa, notably Libya and Somalia. Then there is Greece,
where the migrants originate in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Telling, that our hand
visible or invisible is associated with so many of these stories.
Steven Kinzer, the former New York Times reporter, has a new book called "The
Brothers". The title refers to Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his brother
Allen who headed the CIA, and the book deals with their project to make the world
safe for American capitalism. They gave us Guatemala, then Iran; in each case
toppling democratically elected regimes; and then they dipped their toe in Vietnam
where success remained elusive. Imagine if Mossadegh's elected parliamentary
government had been left alone, there would be a thriving democracy in the heart of
the Islamic world. In little Guatemala, over a hundred thousand would be killed by the
But also in Guatemala, a little known Argentinian doctor learned a valuable lesson.
When Che Guevara later went to Cuba, Fidel Castro and he concluded that
democracy with its open society was vulnerable to subversion and coup; hence
incompatible with any effort towards serious social democratic change, and hence the
Cuban form of government.
Meanwhile, the refugees have followed the interventions with consistent regularity:
Vietnam, Laos, Afghanistan, Pakistan (Malala Yousufzai the most prominent) , Iraq,
Libya, Somalia, and others we tend to forget like the Congo - Patrice Lumumba
murdered in a coup - and Indonesia; yet others no one can forget, like Cambodia.
It is an ongoing story and the consequences of today's actions might well be felt a
couple of decades hence, when some angry young men ...