Weekly Letter to the President
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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
June 8, 2018  (posted June 10, 2018)

Mr. President:  Is there a celebrity brotherhood?  Kim Kardashian, the reality TV star,
turned celebrity, visits the White House and promptly there is clemency for a
grandmother serving a life sentence for being part of a cocaine distribution ring.  Yet
she is right.  Draconian sentences are seldom fair, and judges' hands are often tied
with strict laws, often lobbied for by private prison corporations.  Prohibition leads to
violence, gangsterism and innocent victims.  It was so with alcohol in the Al Capone
days; it is true now with cocaine and heroin.

A society cannot afford to waste resources on victimless crimes.  Teaching individual
responsibility, health warnings as with smoking and alcohol, can be more effective
particularly when added to laws regulating sales.  When the war on drugs has been a
dismal failure, and the billions in cash involved is a source of corruption and fatal drug
wars, it seems time to consider rational alternatives.

The G7 meeting in Canada quickly degenerated into G6+1, the G6 versus Donald
Trump.  If the US has treated European nations as a benevolent parent in trade
agreements, Mr. Trump is forcing the teens into adulthood, and they don't like it.

But there are problems.  Forcing American agricultural products will do to European
farmers what what it did in Mexico.  Japanese farmers wield a powerful lobby and no
Japanese prime minister dare agree.

Mr. Trump has also called for Russia to be readmitted and with good reason.  
Negotiation directly across a table is to be preferred to the under-the-table deals for
gas the Europeans are busy making.

Industrial trade is a complicated issue when corporations have internationalized
operations.  Ford cars can come from Sonora, Mexico and GM engines from Siloa
also in Mexico. Assembly operations can be in Canada.  The Volkswagen plant in
Puebla, Mexico is the only one producing the New Beetle worldwide.  Honda engines
for the US market are made in the US, Japan and Thailand.  Its Marysville, Ohio plant
manufactures 680,000 Hondas a year.  Mercedes-Benz produces SUVs and its
C-class automobiles in Alabama.

It should be fairly obvious that erecting trade barriers is going to be quite a
headache.  But the Donald has surely got the Europeans thinking.  Bravado like
President Macron's tweet about the G6 being a powerful unit in itself to set up
unilateral deals is just that -- when big-brother's economy is larger than the six put
together, and Japan with its security concerns is an unlikely partner.

The coming meeting with Kim Jong Un in Singapore is surely on Mr. Trump's mind.  
The eerie quiet before the summit, the differing interpretations of denuclearization
and the clear lack of preparation point to a getting-to-know-ya, a walk in the park and
little else.

Neither side can extract what it has defined as success; neither side wants failure.  In
all likelihood, we will end up with scraps of paper both sides mostly ignore as in the
past.  But life is full of surprises -- although after what happened to Gaddafi in Libya,
it would be a brave man indeed (or a foolish one)  to give up nuclear weapons in
exchange for a US guarantee.

Then, who knows what Donald Trump will be willing to give up for a Nobel Peace
Prize, heavily tarnished by Obama and others though it may be.