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 22, 2013

Mr. President:  This week has seen a $13 billion settlement against JP Morgan
Chase.  The settlement penalizes innocent stockholders while the perpetrators get off
scot-free.  The bank itself is of course inanimate, it is executives who make decisions
-- often with bonuses in mind -- and in the case of mortgage-backed securities and
their hunger for them, common safe guards were ignored contributing to the housing
bubble and the subsequent financial crisis.  Yet, not a single executive (of any
financial miscreant) has been charged or brought to justice.

The Palestinian team attempting to conduct peace talks with Israel have thrown in the
towel and submitted their resignation to President Mahmoud Abbas.  They claim this
Israeli government shows no seriousness of purpose in the meetings held.  Moreover,
since the current round began, Israeli forces have killed 17 Palestinians, wounded
many more, and constructed 130 new homes in the illegal settlements.  The two-state
solution is slipping away.  Mr. Kerry was going to give it nine months but after three it
looks like the fetus has already aborted.

On the Iranian front, the French wrecked a possible deal last time, and are again this
week stepping up demands.  U.S. foreign policy seems hostage to so many foreign
powers that there has to be a better way to salvage the country's interests.

Whose interests are served by the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a sort of NAFTA
on steroids, can be ascertained by what NAFTA has wrought.

Every year about 400 prospective undocumented immigrants are dying trying to walk
through the desert into this country; many because the coyotes who lead them in
groups cannot wait for laggards due to the rendezvous arrangements on the other
side.  But why are they braving these perils in such large numbers?  Well, one definite
reason is the ravaging of Mexican agriculture by NAFTA.  Small family farms in Mexico
cannot compete against subsidized American agribusiness.  The plot that used to
feed a family and leave enough to be sold for basic necessities can no longer do so.  
The family has little choice but to scrape together a loan and send a member north.

On the home front, jobs offering a decent wage have been disappearing fast enough
to recall the "whoosh" made famous by Ross Perot.  The jobs being created
post-recession are principally in the low level service sector offering few benefits and
in the marginal poverty range.  Hardly a surprise then that the economy refuses to
take off.

The TPP has been called a corporate swindle in The Guardian newspaper.  Free
trade issues are clearly not a primary concern when 24 out of 29 chapters of the
agreement have nothing to do with trade.  Big Pharma has much to gain as it extends
their patents over time and geography.  No surprise then at the demonstrations in
Malaysia and other countries where generics are vital for affordable health care.  
Even worse, TPP is now seeking to formally patent new surgical procedures.  How
does all this improve the lot of humankind?  Fast-track i.e. a straight up or down vote
on TPP is being opposed by 151 Democrats and 23 Republicans who have signed a
letter addressed to U.S. chief negotiators. It is also easy to see why it has been
difficult to access drafts of the agreement until thanks to Wikileaks the intellectual
property chapter was exposed.

The Peterson Institute of International Economics calculates a trivial 0.13 percent of
GDP increase due to TPP by 2025.  So what's the rush and who actually gains?  One
can make a fair guess, and also be sure it will not be the average person.