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
January 3, 2014

Mr. President:  Happy New Year.  As the old year ends, assessments are not
unusual:  most commentators are focused on your 13 percent drop in poll
ratings and the underlying reasons -- the health care plan tops most lists --
followed by a myriad other issues.

Health care, however, brought to mind Mr. Thomas Clement "Tommy"
Douglas, a Canadian politician, almost unknown south of the border, who
continues to be the most admired Canadian of the last century.  What did he
do?  He fought for and helped launch the first (for Canada) health care plan
in the province of Saskatchewan.  It was thereafter extended to all of
Canada, and is considered even now by Canadians to be their best
government program.  It is of course a single-payer system run vastly more
efficiently than abuse burdened Medicare's mix of public payment to private
for-profit enterprises.

With three years to go, the pundits have started to chat legacy and
Obamacare is already tarnished.  We have the Iraq and Iran war from Mr.
Bush and also the prescription drug bill.  The latter while filling a sometimes
bankruptcy-inducing gap in Medicare also explicitly prohibited negotiating
drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, a billions giveaway to the

Obamacare, in turn, compels the young into policies they might not want -- a
coercion many resent -- in order to compensate insurers for insuring the
previously uninsurable and the older.  The psychology of a scheme where an
individual pays for his insurance and pays his medical bills is quite different
from a single-payer system which says 'we are all in the same boat', and
where everyone contributes to a pool that takes care of them throughout
their life.

The Rube Goldberg contraption passing for medical care in the U.S., topped
up now with Obamacare, is cited in other countries as the quintessential
example of what not to do.  The New York Times has this week lent its pages
to Michael Moore for an article on a single-payer system.  Mr. Moore, of
course, is known for his film "Sicko", a chronicle of health care in this
country.  Aiming low then as the pundits see it, if the Obamacare is to be the

On the Snowden front, again The New York Times now has come out in favor
of treating him as a whistleblower, to give him amnesty, and for adequate
privacy safe guards.  Two judges have delivered opposite rulings, and the
issues look set for a showdown in the Supreme Court.  Legislation might be
in order but the thousand pages of detailed minutiae and exceptions in the
Volcker rule legislation is a harbinger of its infeasibility in the current
political environment.  No simple prescription (as in Glass-Steagall) will do
any more.  The lobbyists have strong jaws and sharp teeth.  They don't let go
and nibble away at any rule seen as an encumbrance; that is, on their
sponsors' profits, while protected from bankrupting losses by the public

So, on the legacy front, we are left with the Middle East.  Mr. Kerry, too, is
searching for some kind of grand exit, and thus legacies are surrendered to
those notorious waters where jagged vested interests have foundered many
a ship of peace.