Weekly Letter to President Obama
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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 10, 2013

Mr. President:  After the considerable noise in the media on the use of chemical
agents by government forces in Syria, it was a surprise to read Carla del Ponte's
assertion that the UN's investigation so far points the finger at the rebels.  Now what?  
Do we wash our hands off the rebels or keep insisting there is no conclusive proof?

Also in Syria, Israel launched air strikes on consecutive days this week (according to
Israel to prevent the transit of missiles to Hezbollah) defending itself according to your
comments.  Undeclared wars, preemptive wars, defensive wars, there is no end to the
vocabulary, but there is a common thread -- a contempt for international law.  By the
way, if Syria did have those missiles, why would they send them to Hezbollah who
have no pressing need, when they could use them against the rebels in their own
fight for survival?

The Syrian government appears to be winning at the moment and so Secretary Kerry
has been to Moscow, soon to be followed by Prime Minister Cameron.  The talks
without Mr. Assad's departure as a precondition are on again.  Pity we reneged on a
similar deal struck last June in Geneva -- at least according to Kofi Annan -- the then
UN envoy to Syria and the deal broker.  It would have saved thousands of needless
lives lost, at least a half million refugees, and the countrywide destruction of homes
and villages as the war has raged on.

As I get older, it seems to me, more and more countries should plead the insanity
defense.  Behind all the elegant suits, silk ties and shirts, and luxurious surroundings,
one sees the playground of a primary school.  Tragically, the consequences are
infinitely worse than a few bruises.  Too bad we can't have a Catholic school nun
equivalent to supervise.  She would force the Israelis and the Arab-Christians and
Muslims to live together with equal rights; force the Syrians to disband the dreaded
secret police, and for the different sects to stop killing each other; ditto for Iraq and
the Lebanese tinder box; stop the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Burma and
other minorities in the north and southeast; etc., etc.; and we might even get a real
democracy in our own country.

The latter is a reminder that civilization is judged by how well a society treats its weak
and defenseless.  The healthcare system here is the most inefficient in the developed
world, reaping enormous profits for large for-profit entities at the expense of
individuals and the taxpayer.  Can anyone ever obtain the cost of a surgical
procedure (a hip replacement for example) from a hospital?  You can not.  It varies
according to who is paying and their bargaining power, and has nothing to do with the
actual cost to the hospital.  Woe betide the middle class Joe with a house.

The current CPI for Social Security nimbly sidesteps crucial basics (thanks to Mr.
I-feel-your-pain) forming the bulk of retiree expenses.  And then a large chunk of CPI
increase is taken back in increased Medicare contributions.  The proposed "chained
CPI" is another turn of the screw.  It will cost new retirees almost 5 percent of the
average $14,000 annual payments.  Have you tried living on $14,000 a year?  How
about a means test for all our politicians to ensure they really need the fat salaries
they draw -- and vote to keep increasing -- and their top-of-the-line benefits?  Why
pay them when they do not need the money?  And how about removing the $100K
(about) cut-off for Social Security taxes?  It lets off those most able to afford them, to
penalize through cuts, those least able to defend themselves.  Has fairness also
become old-fashioned?