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
Jan 13, 2012
Mr. President: The White House communications office has been busy. The
latest topic is "insourcing" -- manufacturing jobs returning to the U.S. The
figure quoted is 374,000 in two years. Siemens, the German electrical giant,
is given as an example. There are two serious questions with this story.
First, it takes two million jobs in the same two years just to keep up with the
new entrants into the labor force without allowing for the unemployed.
Second, the major reason German companies (and others) are investing
here is because the dollar and our unions have been weakened to the point
where a German worker costs twice as much as an American. For example,
BMW pays $15 an hour on average at their facility in Greer, South Carolina -
about half the cost in Germany. The average hourly labor cost to BMW is
also about half of what unionized auto workers were earning in the glory
days of the Big Three. It drew me back to an article published almost 22
years ago, and I was surprised to discover that the observations remain
applicable. It is reproduced in the Commentary section.
The viral video of four marines desecrating Afghan bodies (in violation of
the First Geneva Convention, which calls for the dead to be treated with
dignity) dominated the news. The upturned wheelbarrow on the left of the
video and the absence of any weapons is, of course, unusual. No doubt
subsequent investigations will reveal what happened.
According to a report by Nancy Yousseff, the McClatchy Newspapers
correspondent in Afghanistan, the expected riots did not materialize
because Afghans are already aware "such things happen all the time" in the
words of Jamal Karimi, a shopkeeper in Kandahar. The Taliban will continue
with peace talks because it legitimizes their representation of the largest
ethnic group; it also increases their credibility as the force that evicted the
Just as in Iraq where their government refused to allow any American troops
to remain, the Taliban are unlikely to accept the presence of any of our
forces. On this issue, they appear to have the Afghan populace's full
For all the trillions of dollars expended on these wars, what have we
gained? Certainly not in the condition of the countries and peoples left
behind. It will take them decades to recover. For example, Afghanistan was
once famous for its fruits and nuts. But the wars have destroyed these trees
and it takes years for new saplings to mature and yield a crop. So the
farmers grow opium and the harvest this year produced record profits --
helped in an unforeseen way by the eradication program which reduced
quantity, causing a shortage, and raising prices astronomically.
One final question: How did NATO's destruction of Libya's infrastructure
(including the ingenious system bringing water from the south to Tripoli)
help Libyan civilians?