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
June 3, 2011

Mr. President:  This week eleven children from a single family were killed in
a drone attack.  Mr. Karzai, the Afghan President exploded; yet, drone
attacks continue.  So much for democracy and the (supposedly)
democratically elected President of Afghanistan.  His role as U.S. satrap
could not have been made plainer.

But what of the hearts and minds of the Afghan and Pakistan people -- the
latter important because U.S. forces are supplied through Pakistan.  
Demonstrations in both countries against drone attacks are on the rise.  It is
ironic that the war on terror is being fought in Afghanistan against Pashtuns,
who have never been involved in an international terror attack.  Their sole
crime seems to be their code of loyalty towards those who helped them
repel Soviet invaders.  The military tells us the tide is turning in Afghanistan.  
But guerrilla forces always vanish into the civilian population under military
onslaught, only to reemerge -- unless, of course, we are prepared to stay
there forever.

The stock market, a leading indicator for the economy, foreshadowed trouble
ahead this week.  Not quite a tailspin, it just took a substantial dive.  The
odds now are on a double-dip recession, and the chances of another fiscal
stimulus (given the temper of this tea-party influenced Congress) are nil.  
This Administration had a Rooseveltian opportunity for radical change in
2009; instead, it trotted out the Bush II dole out to the big banks, the
so-called too-big-to-fail banks whose lobbyists and hangers-on
overwhelmed a well-meaning novice of a  President.

The Central Japan Railway laid out their plans for a super-high-speed maglev
line along the very busy Tokyo-Nagoya and Tokyo-Osaka routes -- the former
is to be completed by 2026 and the latter by 2045.  These trains will run close
to or above 400 mph, and, if we had something similar on the Eastern
Seaboard, the whole area would be a giant suburb feeding several major
metropolitan areas, providing job opportunities and work flexibility;
construction itself would be a huge boost to the economy, particularly if it
expanded to Chicago and points west.  Alas, our government is a larded,
slow-to-function dinosaur, victim to special interests, and we are unlikely to
see anything like that train in at least a life time.  Building infrastructure is
investment, doling out money to banks to cover gambling losses is what
psychologists call being an 'enabler'.

Robert Fisk, the notable Middle East journalist who writes for The
Independent avers the sight of a U.S. President (and Congress) groveling
before Netanyahu is one reason the U.S. has had little or no influence in the
Arab spring.  Even meddling in the Libyan civil war has resulted merely (so
far) in a stalemate.

Uri Avnery, the well-known Israeli writer, former politician and founder of the
peace group Gush Shalom made the same point in a different way:  Given the
fractional representation in the Israeli system, the ultra-right conservatives
hold disproportionate power in relation to their numbers.  Mr. Avnery claims
their ultra-right tail wags the Israeli Government dog whose tail wags the
U.S. dog.  Thus, in effect, a very small extremist group appears to be in
control of U.S. government policy towards Israel and the Middle East.  Is that
in the best long-term interests of Israel and the U.S., he asks.