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
Feb 10, 2012
Mr. President: Here is a frightening statistic: In 1980, almost 98 percent of
traded financial assets met transparency guidelines, exchange-based rules
and anti-fraud requirements. By 2008, over 90 percent did not. Yet, nothing
has been implemented to restructure this precarious system. Hanging over
the economy are some $700 trillion (not billion) in hidden derivatives. Yet
nothing has been done other than to ignore them -- only repeated efforts to
prop up AIG and the big banks. In fact, nothing can be done because the
figure is 50 times the size of our economy.
These have become the dark matter of the financial universe -- unseen,
vastly greater than visible matter, and exerting a dark force. Consider
futures contracts: the open interest is also much larger than the commodity
available, but the contracts (almost all except for the few genuine buyers
who accept, and sellers who deliver the commodity) are closed out or
settled before the expiration date. The parties accept the gains / losses; the
transactions are transparent, the prices open. But with credit default swaps
no one knows -- the ball-park figures are informed guesswork. It is high time
our government wielded some muscle, particularly as the vast majority of
credit default swaps were not used for hedging credit but as trading proxies.
While the debate on jobs remains in terms of one plan claiming a to generate
one million , another party's plan claiming to produce two, what we actually
need is in the range of twenty million -- a figure not close to realization if the
lending institutions are hobbled by unrealized losses, and addicted to
trading (gambling) instead of returning to commercial lending. This despite
the billions from taxpayers to bail them out. Or, as the Indian writer
Arundhati Roy expressed succinctly, "You take from the poor, subsidize the
rich, and then call it the Free Market."
The wars continue to bleed money and lives. On Wednesday, eight children
were killed in an airstrike in Kapisa province leading to the Afghan
President's strong condemnation. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism
based in London has done a careful analysis of civilian deaths by drones to
report provable figures. The information is freely available on its website.
In addition, the psychiatric trauma (especially to children) of constant
surveillance and attacks by drones has been documented in the Peshawar
hospitals. Cancer, in Iraq from depleted uranium, in Vietnam from chemicals,
ruined agriculture, ways of life ... wars leave a terrible legacy. Afghanistan,
once famous for apricot and almond blossoms, dried fruit and nuts, grapes
and mulberries, now lives off opium because the trees have long been
destroyed in war and take years to grow and yield a crop.
In a few hundred million years, Africa will butt up against the Caribbean
pushing towards the Arctic, North America is expected to wedge against
Japan and Asia creating an Amnasia while we in our addled war amnesia will
be long gone, victims of living in the past through a determined ignorance,
unable to cooperate peacefully for a shared future, and the consequence of
repeated prejudices and beliefs.