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
Oct 28, 2011
Mr. President: There are things to be happy about this week. First, the
unbelievably exciting sixth game of the World Series. The Rangers were one
strike away from clinching the Series not just once but twice. In the bottom
of the ninth, the Cardinals were two runs down and Freese at two strikes hit
a two-run triple. The game went into the tenth inning and the Rangers'
Hamilton delivered a two-run homer. It looked as if it was all over for the
Rangers -- lighting doesn't strike twice, a second miracle unlikely. But it
happened. The game was tied again and went into the eleventh where a
homer ended it for the Rangers. The Series moves to the seventh game
also in St. Louis. And if academic research on the home field advantage
("Scorecasting" by Moskowitz and Wertheim) is to be believed the Cardinals
have a better than even chance (54.1%) of winning the final game.
The second item is the stabilization plan announced in Europe to deal with
Greek debt (and Italian and others). The deal proposes to expand the 440
billion fund to a trillion euros. And the bankers will take a 50% "haircut" on
the Greek debt. Of course there is a slight problem with all this. If the
bankers take a "haircut", is that default? -- a question of great interest to
holders of Credit Default Swaps and their guarantors. One party says, yes,
and wants to be paid off for the default; the politicians are saying it is
voluntary, and the ultimate conclusion can affect firms in this country. Of
course, there remains the question of where the trillion for the fund is
coming from -- taxpayers or private investors? We know who footed the bill
in this country. And the reason is made clear in a new book by Jeffrey
Winters called "Oligarchy".
A professor of Political Economy at Northwestern, Winters is a renowned
scholar on Indonesia. It was in researching the oligarchs there, and the deft
way they usurped control of Indonesia's nascent democracy, that Winters, as
an American, began to think about his own country. It turns out that unequal
in income and wealth as the U.S. is, the wealth pyramid is even steeper
within the top one percent. It is the top one percent of the top one percent
that exert extraordinary control. About 4% of Americans participate in
funding elections. Of these about a half percent fund the overwhelming
amount. The politicians are in a bind. They pay the 99-plus percent lip
service and fulfill the wishes of the half-percent.
By the way, Professor Winters also found that Imperial Rome with its slave
and farmer society was less unequal than the U.S. -- two times less!