Weekly Letter to President Obama
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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
Dec 16, 2011
Mr. President: While the headlines scream unemployment is down to 8.6
percent, the fine print tells us it is due in good measure to the 315,000
people too discouraged to look for work last month.
But buried in the back pages (p.21 in the Washington Post last Friday) is a
shocker: American household wealth declined precipitously in the third
quarter (July to September). The average individual loss in 401k pension
accounts at Fidelity, the largest such savings plan provider, was $21,000.
The total loss in household wealth was a record $2.4 trillion. When
corporations dispensed with defined-benefit plans in favor of 401K
contributions, employees were promised an inexorable march to prosperity
riding the stock market bull. It turned out to be a buckin' bronco that has
thrown off all riders. Of course, corporate cash reserves in the same
quarter were up by $2.1 trillion. It clearly pays to shed your risks to the
perennial sucker, the common man.
We are finally able to leave Iraq. Contrary to the claims made by the
Secretary of Defense at the flag casing ceremony, the country is neither
stable, nor a unified democracy. Bombings continue; people vote their
religious or ethnic affiliation not for any across the board candidate; and
right now there is a dispute between the central government and the de
facto autonomous Kurdish authorities as to their rights to sign an oil deal
Quite apart from our terrible losses in lives lost and destroyed, the Iraqis
have also suffered, and far worse. The over 100,000 deaths totaled by Iraq
Body Count are directly attributable to war. But what of the diabetic who
could not obtain insulin and lapsed into a coma and died? Or the one with
appendicitis? Or a woman who needed a Caesarian? Are there deaths
caused by war? The John Hopkins study published in Lancet included these
and calculated excess deaths at over half a million. Almost every family has
suffered a loss. In addition, over five million have been displaced, their
The most recent study on the cost to us of this war was issued by Brown
University this summer. The total cost for Iraq and Afghanistan was
estimated at between $3.2 and $4 trillion. And the contribution of this
administration is an additional three years in each -- more in Afghanistan.
The ceremony in Iraq was held in a heavily fortified compound in the heavily
fortified green zone. No public official dare step outside it on to the streets
of Baghdad. So much for winning hearts and minds. It is the same in
Afghanistan and Pakistan. For wasting all this money and earning nothing
but hatred, surely there must be someone somewhere who awards a dunce's
cap to policy makers.
By the way, when someone informs the world about gross wrongdoing
resulting in the taking of innocent lives, does one correct the wrongdoing or
punish the truth teller who brought it to light? Interesting question and a
predictable answer form this administration, which also abstains from
investigating and trying bankers. Professing the innocence of bankers
without conducting a proper investigation is like saying a burglar did not
break the law because no one investigated the burglary. Did fraud take
place? Evidently. Was there a human agent? Yes. So who is trying to
connect the dots?
One final note: According to FBI Deputy Director John Pistole in testimony
before the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 9, 2009, 1000 FBI agents and
forensic experts were employed in strike forces in 27 cities to investigate
the $160.1 billion (General Accounting Office data) Savings and Loan debacle
in the 1980s. The current banking disaster is an order of magnitude larger.
How many investigating this? So far none.