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
May 11, 2012
Mr. President: From the winter of 2009, this column has been advocating the return
of Glass-Steagall -- warning that the laws of probability will again catch up with the
speculators and hit an outside chance. Paul Volcker too has recommended
limitations on derivative trading, but the cumbersome incorporation of the "Volcker
Rule" in the Dodd-Frank Act made its application almost unenforceable. We have
now seen the result: J P Morgan Chase has just announced a loss of $2 billion
caused by derivative trading. Its CEO, James Dimon, who had belittled the Volcker
Rule and Mr. Volcker's understanding of modern capital markets now has egg on his
Fortunately, this is a market manageable loss but the warning flag is out. The
question is whether Congress will at last do something, or if the administration will
seize the moment and take the initiative. Sadly, if past is prologue, the financial
industry's political clout will prevail, especially in an election year.
Last week, the Russian defense chief threatened a preemptive strike against the
NATO missile defense shield in Eastern Europe unless a mutually acceptable
agreement was formulated. They are that concerned. This week, newly elected
President Vladimir Putin has declined to attend the G-8 summit in Washington,
sending his Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, instead. It is a gentle snub. President
Putin is also now talking about Russia becoming the fulcrum and center of gravity in a
strategic coalescence of European and Asian states. He means, of course, a more
loosely attached Soviet Union. What with the first signs of a naval cold war against
the Chinese emerging in the Pacific, are we now now heading towards two
simultaneous cold wars? One hopes not, given Russia's vast mineral and fossil fuel
resources and China's rare earth minerals.