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
December 28, 2012

Mr. President:  For the third week running, there has been a shooting.  This time the
victims were firefighters.  Yes, indeed, there is the issue of gun violence and the
mayhem caused by large-magazine weapons, but the question not given a close and
careful examination is the mindset of the shooter.  In our culture, why does the
disgruntled postal worker go postal?  Why is anger directed at society as in the
random shootings in malls, movie theaters, schools?  Why such alienation?  Why?  
Why?  This is what a commission really needs to examine?

This week the Chinese gave themselves a Christmas present -- in addition to
supplying most of ours, that is.  They opened the world's longest section of
high-speed rail:  a 2200 kilometer (1,345 miles) stretch connecting several major
cities which used to take 22 hours, will now take ten hours despite the 35 stops along
the route.  The trains will travel at up to 300 km per hour (187 mph) initially, indicating
an intent to speed them up further over time.  At these speeds, train travel becomes
competitive with the airplane for shorter distances and the longest distances are
feasible for non-business trips.  One could leave New York at dinner time and arrive
in LA before lunch the next day.l  Given the uncontested ecological and climate
change advantages of trains over airplanes and automobiles, why can't we follow the
Japanese, European and now Chinese lead?

As everyone knows, the source of the dysfunction lies in our current economic and
political models.  These have evolved through a generation or more of debilitating
legislation gradually sucking the oxygen out of our democracy, economy and lately
even personal freedoms, where Congress and government no longer represent the
vast majority of the people.

Building infrastructure -- or even restoring it -- is a long way from legislators' minds
when keeping the financial books in order is a problem.  And why?  Because the
special interests, be they internal or external, have a permanent hand in the till, which
means the same as the taxpayers' pockets.  No fools, the voters have responded by
sending representatives who refuse to tax any more ... thereby throwing out the baby
with the bathwater.  Sadly, no more Roosevelts or Eisenhowers to rescue us from folly.

The new year approaches, so permit me to wish you a happy one and all the luck in
the world.  Thirteen, as some would have us believe, is an unlucky number, and the
fiscal cliff is nigh even before we reach it.