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
November 18, 2011
Mr. President: Did you ever have the chance to read Alexander Pope's "The
Rape of the Lock"? The spoiled Belinda, a dressing table overflowing with
puffs, powders, perfumes of all Arabia, jewels from India, indulging her
vanity. The poem references countries plundered, lives lost, blood, sweat
and tears flowing, all to dress the vain Belinda. While the real backdrop is a
lovers' squabble, it appears to be a telling metaphor for our time -- Iraq (oil),
Afghanistan (loaded with minerals), Libya (oil) present a remarkably similar
context ... and relevant as the heat is turned up on Iran.
NATO reports a tally of air strikes in Libya: 26,320 sorties were made
attacking 5,000 targets. There is no mention of casualty figures. No doubt
the strikes were surgical with the shrapnel studiously avoiding human flesh
unless it belonged to the clan Gaddafi when even grandchildren under five
were not exempt -- civilians had to be protected from them.
Lawrence Lessig's latest book, "Republic Lost", is a graphic portrait of our
has-been democracy. Capitol Hill has become a farm team for lobbyists --
where the real money awaits. According to his figures, 52% of Senators and
72% of Congressmen turn to this enormously lucrative profession upon
leaving office. The stakes are in the billions and the rewards
commensurate. So who wants to upset the system or kill the cash cow. This
week, Mr. Gingrich has been exposed as a hypocrite. After mercilessly
lambasting influence peddling, it turns out he was doing the same.
Bill Clinton took another route -- $50 million in speaking fees and a similar
sum through book writing and sweetheart deals. Why such largesse has
been bestowed is clear from one simple statistic. In 2000, 98% of derivatives
were traded with regulatory oversight that had kept us safe since the Great
Depression; in 2007, 90% were traded without restraint. Snow White had
been scuppered by the evil witches -- in this case Brooksley Born, who
wanted to regulate mortgage-backed financial derivatives, by Messrs. Rubin
and Summers, lately the Svengalis of this administration.
To add insult to injury, Wall Street after causing the biggest collapse since
the Great Depression still had the capacity to extract a get-out-of-jail-free
card from Congress, and the essential trading structure remains unaltered.
This is how we stand today.
Sears, Roebuck the venerable retailer has been headquartered in the
Chicago area since inception. It is now being courted by the Governor of
Ohio with tax incentives to move. Tax holidays and other incentives have
been part of the game always, but the bidding wars have become a Dutch
auction at the taxpayer's expense. Is it time for the Federal Government to
step in and establish a system so corporations (and even sports teams) are
not able to squeeze the last drop of benefits under the threat of relocation?
The issue of corporate capital seeking lower wage costs is global, and the
ASEAN countries particularly have been unique beneficiaries. It is high time
someone at the very least broached the subject at the current meeting.
Perhaps one day there will be a declaration of universal labor rights and
practices that are standard across the globe.