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
November 7, 2014

Mr. President:  The Democrats got a drubbing in the mid-term election on Tuesday.  
The Republicans ran against you and your policies.  And the email you sent out to us
said essentially 'Let's get to work'!

In the post-election news conference, you touted the economy.  Let us look at the
reduction in unemployment, now down to 5.8%.  If someone is tired of plodding the
pavement every week, he is considered to be no longer looking for work and the
figure excludes him.  If he accepts a job far below his capacities, or takes a part-time
job, the figure excludes him.  A better test for the actual job situation is to look at
wages.  Stagnant!  Why?  Because if anyone doesn't like what they are being paid,
there are plenty in the queue waiting to take his place.  The economist's euphemism
for it is 'slack', when what it actually represents is unmeasured unemployment or

The worst aspect of this phenomenon is the inability of young people, in their
twenties, even many university graduates to get a foot on the first rung of the
employment ladder.  Many face the prospect of becoming a lost generation as
employers prefer fresh graduates or those with experience when jobs do open up.

Meanwhile in the middle east, mission creep -- predicted when the ISIS fight began --
continues with another 1000 men (advisers) sent this week.  Bombing in congested
urban areas, where very small numbers of ISIS fighters are nested in large civilian
populations, produces more refugees -- hardly the most efficient way of rooting out
ISIS. Or, of generating love for this country.

Refugees in Iraq, refugees in Syria, in Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan, and even
Ukraine.  What external hand do they have in common?

The United Nations (UNHCR) reported a short while ago that the number of refugees
in the world were the highest since the Second World War.  Winter is fast
approaching.  As we sit in our warm heated houses, travel to work in heated cars to
arrive in heated offices, who has the time to think of freezing refugees?  There are
pressures here aplenty.  But how many children will die unnecessarily and how many
elderly before their time this winter?

All kinds of stories are out all the time about Presidents and administrations:  recently
that this President is notoriously slow in making up his mind; that he was pushed into
the Afghan surge by generals who inundated the media before he had his say.  But
there is a reason why we have civilian leadership of the military, and a statesman
weighs all the consequences of military force -- not just the battlefield, or, worse, just
the polls.

As far as generals are concerned, there remains one inescapable fact.  For every
winning general on a battlefield, there is one ... who lost.  The surge cost a thousand
and more dead and billions of dollars for no real discernible gain.