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
December 27, 2013
Mr. President: Happy New Year. May 2014 increase our happiness, our gross
domestic happiness (GDH) as Bhutan calls it, and for our local taste make us also
The ads for expensive watches are on the increase, showing up even on the back
covers of left wing magazines socialist in outlook. They tout transparent mechanism
display, complications i.e. ridiculous extra features, tourbillon mechanisms, a really
difficult to construct doodad increasing accuracy, etc. There might have been a point
to all this thirty years ago when regular watches were not the most accurate. Then
out of the blue, time measurement was changed forever by the advent of the quartz
crystal. Vibrating at over 30,000 cycles per second, it was unmatched a hundred fold
and more by any mechanical wizardry. Now for a few dollars one can get a throw
away watch keeping better time than any $100,000 mechanical masterpiece. Many in
the new generation eschew wrist watches all together: time is available on cell
phones accurate as an atomic clock can be. But their desires have yet to be teased
by the advertising juggernaut.
So why the craze? Perhaps the reason is the same as the designer names plastered
over personal items. Or, people who can afford one will buy a Mercedes -- the
mechanic's best friend according to Consumer Reports -- and not a Toyota the
ultimately reliable, trouble-and-worry-free transportation almost as comfortable.
Unfortunately, the ever-increasing gross domestic product economic model becomes
fallacy in a world where climate change places our survival at risk. Very soon we are
going to have to ditch the GDP for the GDH and a competitive world for a cooperative
one if we are going to stand a chance as a species. Instead of rampaging powers
around the globe, the world needs communities of sharing, of preserving and
protecting, not just the resources but us in a future climate-ravaged planet. It
requires cooperation to limit emissions, and a radical shift in mind-set to curtail
When Christmas shopping mania takes hold, one cannot help but be reminded of
Keynes' dictum. In a trade-deficit country easing monetary policy benefits its trading
partners. Every little toy, gizmo, gadget, doodad, gewgaw, knickknack, furry creature,
or whatever, is made elsewhere, mostly in China. And the watches? They come from
Switzerland. Their secret to a strong currency is to buy a hunk of metal from abroad,
put enormous value-added into it, and sell it to the vanity-stricken abroad including
the leader of certain developing country with a per capita annual income of $1,300
accused of sporting a $20,000 watch. He is of course a billionaire, his business
having received a substantial boost from his politics. The previous strongman in the
same country is now on trial for treason, put there by people he displaced. Clearly,
he lacked Mr. Putin's ability to deliver a decisive stroke as in the case of Mr.
The latest in acquisitiveness by politicians centers on stolen German luxury cars
smuggled to Poland (a mere 50 miles from Berlin) and beyond in the former Soviet
Union's orbit of influence. "Come to Poland, your car is already here', has become a
German joke playing on a travel line. Equipped with anti-theft devices using GPS, the
cars have been traced to luminaries such as the Ukrainian Minister of Justice, close
associates and family of the President of Tajikistan, and other eminences favoring a
Mercedes or BMW. None can produce valid purchase documents.
Such are the ways of a world hurtling towards a climate catastrophe.