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Monthly Archives: March 2009

Oct 2009 – new pages up on PaginasparaClarinha blog

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Pick the Not Picasso

That’s right, it’s #3, by one Erik Parker, who was accorded a slide-show spread in the NYT, doubtless hoisting his price in the fiscal arts game, at least for a little while.   Seems like rather worn out pseudo-psychedelia to my jaded eyes, like the obsessive doodling of some speed-freak of my past acquaintance, though perhaps a bit more restrained and anal-retentive.   Whatever happened to that other flavor-of-the-season, the neo-classisist whose name already dissolves, just like his paintings, in my mind.  Maybe I will recall it. [ Days later, I just did: John Currin.]

I refrain from posting one of his more explicit current items, once again proving porn sells, but to think this guy was for one second taken seriously in the arts world tells you to what corrupted decadence we’ve fallen.   Perhaps, along with the bankers, his day has already come and gone.

Meantime, for anyone in need of a direct and sober assessment of the present fiscal follies of Wall Street waltzing with the White House, see Paul Krugman’s column today: The Market Mystique.  He manages to wrestle down all the mumbo-jumbo into simple language anyone should be able to cope with, except perhaps those in utter thrall to the alleged magic of Mill’s mighty finger of fate.   He doesn’t seem to hold out much hope for the present policy of shoving still more money into the hands of our Masters of the Universe banking and brokering classes.   Though it would seem the brokers have definitely lived up to their titles.

Well, it used to be railroad barons, and Rockefeller (oil) and such who called the shots, but at least while they were busy robbing they built something more tangible than a Ponzi pyramid.  Can’t say that much for the fantastical financial innovations cooked up since Reagan, and Bush’s one and two, and Clinton, cut loose the rules and let the Wall Street folks police themselves.  They’ve had a wild and lucrative party since, though now we are all going to share a Mother of All Hang-Overs.

Geoffrey Rush in Exit the King

Lastly, today, March 27, 2009 is my daughter’s — Clara Villaverde Cabral Jost — 12th birthday.   I have been unable, since late August 2001 to see, to hear from, to telephone or otherwise know anything of her, courtesy of her mother, Portuguese film director Teresa Villaverde, who has blocked mail, and in collusion with the “authorities” of the Portuguese juvenile justice system, simply prevented me from knowing even their present address.  As Clara should be old enough to be wondering just who her father is, and is likely to be using the internet, I have started what in effect will be a long letter to her, to let her know of her whole family, and what happened to her, all on a new blog, published today.  Paginas Para Clara.

Parabens Clarinha !

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Dow Leaps 497 Points as U.S. Lays Out Bank Rescue Plan

On formally announcing that Uncle Sam, to say Joe the Public, was going to print up a mere trillion bucks and share in buying up at excess cost a bunch of “toxic assets” (to some degree consisting of badly designed and built houses), in a scheme in which “private” buyers shared the costs, and should those assets fail to become as valuable as the price paid, then Old Joe would step in and cover the spread for the “private” buyer, but if not then the private buyer could keep the profits.   Some deal.   Of course those trillion pieces of paper might knick the buck in time, but for the moment those most interested in making a buck (firm anti-Socialists all), went momentarily delirious seeing that their men in the Executive suites of Oval shape, had managed the fix.

Talk about insider trading!

So for the moment the fiscal delirium tremens are going through a major wobble – MARKET UP 7% !! shriek the headlines.  Everything’s gonna be OK and we can keep our penthouse and the “cottage” up on Cape Cod, murmur the bankers…

President Obama and friends discussing the US economy, below:

“Now, I tell you the real value of this item is $28,000,000, and that the market is underestimating it is just, well, a tragedy, and I’ll tell you what, if you put up a part of it, we’ll back you to the full real value and….”

And, yes, like a well-trained seal the market jumped on command, some trader’s made a good commission, some buy-low-sell-high souls cleaned up for the day, and now we can wait for another shoe to clunk to the floor.   Or, at least, so say a number of reasonably qualified observers, such as Krugman and a mess more of economist souls for whom the flim-flam lingo is less opaque than for us mere commoners.

It is all, alas, an old American story.  Or maybe just a human one.

We Be U$.

The days are full of brutal news, bearing mere hints of far worse to come.   The Obama administration is caught in the swirls of a history already made, and then compounded by the inanities of the real world where the niceties of abstruse economic jargons collide with street-level incomprehension and anger.  Millions and billions for the rich; an eviction notice, or pink slip for the lesser souls.  Treasury Secretary Geithner, while perhaps in his own little world of high-level economics is a whiz-kid, in the muddier realms of politics is simply useless.  And the real world is much more the latter.   Obama will be drawn down in the undertow, if he doesn’t quickly correct things by letting Geithner go and then biting the bullet with a blunt speech to the nation that indeed the entire Wall Street system is a fraud, and the sooner we acknowledge this, difficult though it may be to swallow (for some), the sooner we can begin to crawl out of the hole we’ve been placed in.    Failing that he’ll continue to try to prop up a totally rotted system which, should it recover, would merely do the same all over again.   Probably he could politically get away with such a radical movement now, but he seems not inclined to take such a step.  He imagines, along with Geithner and Summers, to finesse the mess at hand, obscure its true depths and hopes to crawl step at a time back to some supposed “stabilized normalcy” wherein with some jiggled matters, some new regulations, America can resume again, and as President Bush counseled, get back to shopping.

Well, good luck.

Reading far too much for my mental health on all this, I have a glimmer of an understanding of what lies beneath, well, the lies.   More or less what’s there is zip, nada, nothing.   The Wall Street system, unleashed by Reagan and the neo-liberals, with regulations and supervision made looser and looser since 1970 something, is capitalism run wild, which frankly should surprise no one – it was all done in plain sight.  It’s underlying philosophy, supposedly rooted back to Mills, is that market economies with the mystical hidden hand guiding the way, fix everything, and applied as recently to broader extremes,  it  supposedly solves all ethical and moral problems too boot.   Those who bought into this, and very many did, have been sold the mythical bridge in Brooklyn.

Fundamentally the Wall Street system is designed to attract the greediest and most self-serving souls available.  They in turn are given massive incentives to make short-term profits, by hook and crook.  They are given an ever more arcane language the better to pull the wool over all eyes, perhaps including their own.

“Give a capitalist enough rope,” Marx sternly warned, “and he will hang himself.”

The present efforts of Geithner and company are intended to get the rope off the necks of those who are hanging, and along the way make sure they suffer as little inconvenience and loss as possible.   So those who constructed this gigantic leveraging system, and enriched themselves to the point where mere millions are chump change to them, extract trillions from the public to Save The System. Of course, to them, this makes perfect sense, although explaining it to the hoi polloi is less than easy.   Geithner and Summers lack the political and rhetorical skills to do so, and thus the job falls to Obama but even his gilded mind and tongue aren’t quite able to get themselves around this one.  Even if it is rather simple to explain:

In their pursuit of profit, our Masters of the Universe constructed a highly complex system of mirrors, a Ponzi scheme to beat all Ponzi schemes, and they sold debt in as many manners as they could, of course rewarding themselves handsomely for each exchange, as is their practice.  Commissions, bonuses, golden parachutes, the whole lexicon of, uh, cons.  They, and their pals, in their self-serving and carefully hidden world, did “well” – to say they made millions and millions and billions of bucks.  They made so much they could buy any politician and have the laws of the nation written to suit their interests.  No Capital Gains taxes – i.e. for them that means no income taxes, and they have very big incomes.   Rules to let them off-shore this and that account.  They did precisely what Marx said they would do: they hung themselves on their own greed and hubris.  And now they want the public to dig them out of their own vast pile of    s  h  i  t.    They do this in a classic manner called EXTORTION.   To say, they assert – and in their system they are correct – that if they are not bailed out and “the system” is not stabilized and put back on its feet, then everyone will suffer.   This was Paulson’s gambit last autumn when he asked extraordinary powers to shell out mountains of money with absolutely no accountability and guarantees of no post facto legal actions.  That particular balloon did not fly.   However thus far, very similar ones, dressed up in different words, have not only flown, but have assisted in seeing that so far some trillion(s) of dollars have been sent off to an accounting black hole, where some one is picking up the chips (though the chips get smaller as the printing presses furiously crank out zeros, and the currency of the currency diminishes).

Nope, sorry guys, as fast as they bail, the ship is already at the bottom of the sea, just that neither captain nor passengers wish to acknowledge the matter.  Not until it is forced upon them by the eviction notice, the pink slip, or coming to theater near you soon, the crack of a gun and a slumping banker or trader wondering in his last moment why there is so much hatred all around.

The problem here is that the contradictions of capitalism are irresolvable, and the idea of a change so radical as to deal with that is certainly beyond the pedestrian nature of our “leaders” and probably beyond the comprehension of most of the citizenry of the globe, except for those billions who have never been inside its vast fantasy bubble and have lived in a world that is more like that which is likely arriving soon for us all.  They will understand.  The rest of us will be dumbfounded as our illusions are stripped away.

As a little consolation prize, there’s always the pleasures of art:

Down

Up

Having a bit riding on the matter, I check periodically – perhaps to torment myself – on the dollar-won exchange rate.  A week or so ago it was nearly 1000 won = $1.59, in which case my savings here (the reason I have a job is mostly to try a late-in-the-game attempt to have a little stash to “retire” on, since I have no pension, SS, or anything else to count on for the dwindling years left) have shriveled, vis a vis converting to god’s own greenbacks, by a drastic amount: when the job began is was 98 won = a buck.

However, in the quick contortions of the collapsing US economy, I checked a day ago, and it’d shifted to 1000 won = $1.42 or so.  And today, after the Fed (the fake public/private “bank” that prints up money according to the dictates of some secret cabal) decided to print up another trillion $$$ to throw at, well, AIG, BofA, etc. etc., the buck traded for $1.38.  So the pendulum seems to be following a downward path at the moment, perhaps at this rate soon to arrive back at the place it started when I got this job.   According to fiscal wizardry I consulted some months ago, come summer time the buck should be costing 890 won, so I’d be ahead in that particular game.  Or, to translate that, it means the dollar is going to go down the drain.  Guess what that might mean to you in a bit….

Supposedly.  Of course whatever shape the world is in by then, we can only guess.  Safe bet is, “worse.”   At least by some standards.  However, perhaps the silver lining to all this will be a huge drop in consumption, lessening of green-house gases, and perhaps a long decade or two hiatus on our reckless way of living, enough of a pause to let some philosophical thinking to occur where perhaps we conclude that manic consumerism, a treadmill job, celebrating mindless rich folks, etc., somehow does not lead to a satisfying or satisfactory life.  And maybe our culture will change.   Let’s hope.

Meantime a Yonsei, my classes are beginning to reveal their shape for the term.  Visual Directing, basically a foundation thing in what digital video can be beyond a cheap way of having “film” looks to be promising.  Only 5 students, but I think most of them have innate talent, so I hope to see some nice things coming out shortly.  The other class is 11 people, now broken into 4 groups, each cluster to attempt to make a short feature in the next 12 weeks while I do the same.  I have decided to cast them all in my film, and have a central little thread to follow, a kind of gentle comedy of manners of a generation which periodically points their cell phone cameras at themselves and take a shot, text manically at all times, bury their heads in little portable TVs on the metro, sidewalk, etc., and doubtless when confront with real life are due for a comeuppance.  I decided to cast the students since its the only way I can let them all “help” and learn from seeing how I make films, which is the supposed intent of the course.

Here’s a quote attributed to Jimmy Cayne, above, former chief of Bear Stearns about Tim Geithner who engineered the sale of his bank to JP Morgan at a sizable loss:

“The audacity of that prick in front of the American people announcing he was deciding whether or not a firm of this stature and this whatever was good enough to get a loan,” he said. “Like he was the determining factor, and it’s like a flea on his back, floating down underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, getting a hard-on, saying, ‘Raise the bridge.’ This guy thinks he’s got a big dick. He’s got nothing, except maybe a boyfriend. I’m not a good enemy. I’m a very bad enemy. But certain things really—that bothered me plenty. It’s just that for some clerk to make a decision based on what, your own personal feeling about whether or not they’re a good credit? Who the fuck asked you? You’re not an elected officer. You’re a clerk. Believe me, you’re a clerk. I want to open up on this fucker, that’s all I can tell you.”

In All the Vermeers in New York, Steve Lack, playing a broker, tells one of his customers, in a knowing way, “No, no.  Bear Stearns is being completely honest with you….”

Indeed, indeed.

The Wall Street Line-Up



And here’s the President of Mexico, as Obama considers putting the National Guard along the US-Mexico border:

“I challenge anyone to tell me to what point in national territory they want to go, and I will take them,” Mr. Calderón said in a speech Thursday.

He acknowledged the magnitude of Mexico’s fight and added that its problems were a consequence of Mexico’s location next to “the biggest consumer of drugs in the world and the largest supplier of weapons in the world.”


And economist John Kenneth Galbraith once said,

“The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.”

The Existentialist Cowboy rides yet again, a gunslinger you can believe in.

As the economy continues its free-fall to some mode of temporary oblivion, and the US gov’t, under the unsure guidance of once Masters of the Universe, printing money faster than the presses can run – money in the trillions which mystically simply seems to disappear (perhaps we’ll know where when the Cayman Islands sink from the weight of this paper largesse stuffed in the pockets of our least needy who have for decades parked it offshore), slowly the lethargic grand public is showing signs of pissed-offedness.  Not yet the crack of 30-aught-30’s hitting the windshields of giant SUVs headed to gated country paradises; not yet clever golf-ball bombs, but perhaps soon.  Clearly the once-impregnable cultural shields of wealth and celebrity which surrounded the monied classes is showing cracks, and rather than being beloved, a cloud of hatred is rising up from the landscape.  Along with the tent cities, the suicides of desperation, the burgeoning world of homeless shelters, the insipid new con-game ploys littering the spam box of your email.  The World Bank today announced a grimmer forecast for the coming year(s) than previously envisioned by governmental tea-leave readers of the moment.  A global contraction is well under way.  (Here in Korea where I am in the last quarter industrial production for this live-by-exports nation plummeted 26%; my university-teacher friends at the same time note a sudden expansion of class sizes….)  You might have noticed it in the yellow slip you got last week, or the stagnant paycheck of the last years, or the tent that popped up down the street among the foreclosure signs.

In myself I note it in the increasing sense of indifference I bring to my computers as I flick them on in the morning, look briefly at the time-lines (Swimming in Nebraska on one, Imagens de uma Cidade Perdida on the other), and fail to find the energy or enthusiasm to address them.  They sit the day casually glanced at, little done on them, before I turn them off for the night.  To me this comes not from a personal anxiety that I might be out of a job shortly, though that could happen even if for the moment circumstances in that respect seem “safe,” but rather from a more general sense of the futility and irrelevance of these pieces.  Something in me stirs to think to either just lay down the tools of my trade and take up something more tangible-seeming, like a garden or something useful like working in a homeless shelter (a friend in Oregon who works at one, actor in OVER HERE, tells me “business” is booming there in McMinville); flip side I think I should set these aside and dig in and make a work that addresses the present situation, though that diminishes when I simultaneously ponder the realities of distribution: yet another work for an audience of (n)one?   In the realm of aesthetics that is a livable proposition; in the realm of politics it is simply a sign of insanity or an overbearing ego.

So several filmmaker acquaintances signal that in the face of the black hole of the visible fiscal future, they are looking for jobs teaching.   I fear for them that the odds will be lousy, as there is an on-paper unemployed line about a mile long in front of them, of similarly situated would-be media makers, looking for a steady paycheck.  Certainly there is likely to be a flush of student enrollments, particularly in state educational systems where the tuition is a lot lower than “name brand” universities, somewhat in proportion to the lack of jobs outside the Ivory Tower world.  Trouble is that for many the fall-back of “staying with Mom and Dad” is likely to be nicked as the folks just lost their house.  Maybe they can move in with Junior in the dorm???

And the experts in the financial world and the government and Wall Street told you it could never happen again, and that they had all the institutional structures to prevent another Great Depression, and….    And then in the interests of the glories of a free market and globalization and financial innovation and get-rich-quick schemes, they dismantled most of that and here we are!

Thank you, Big Gipper, and the cluster of neo-cons who contributed to this development (and who are already shrieking from their pundit thrones that it is Obama’s recession, and that the correct cure is more tax cuts, less regulation, and Newt Gingrich is hinting a Presidential run, and…      and how tone-deaf can you get?) and thank you to the public, which, mal-educated, dreamed of American Idol, of shop-til-you-drop, of hitting it big in Vegas, of getting out of university and going straight to that financial sector $80,000 a year starter job, and otherwise largely bought into the swill served up by our “conservatives,” and now, again, must pay the bills.

Stick ‘em up, pardner!

You will note that while he’s sticking a gun in your face he’s wearing the badge of “authority” just like our friends in high places, Mr Geither, Paulson, and the whole phalanx of financial con-men who just ran off with some trillions of your tax-payer bucks, not to mention the bonuses and salaries they stashed away the last decade or so, every dime built on fraud.

Elevator going down.

Gleaning the daily news – probably far too much for my mental health and certainly a major distraction from finishing up my ever more irrelevant “work” of editing and finishing up 3 new films – one comes across increasingly numbing figures.  Dr Doom, a.k.a. Professor Nouriel Roubini for example, has us in for 3.7 trillion bucks of banker-stock funny money; others have us in for 7 trillion.   To understand how this happened, the simple logic that governed Wall Street, and on a far lesser scale governs, for example, Hollywood (or most film producing pockets) is instructive:

You have a system which rewards, both financially, but also in less direct manners, the making of profit, as measured in relatively short-term increments, like “a quarter” (3 months), or a year.   On Wall Street this reward is delivered as a lump at the end of the year, based on what “profits” you brought into the company.  This is on top of what most souls would consider a good substantial salary for the year ($100,000 or so, minimum).  This “profit” is measured in curiously abstract things – slips of paper in your wallet, numbers on an accounting sheet.  In this system your reward is somewhat proportionate to your capacity to “creatively” find news ways to make more money/numbers.  And you get your pay-off at the end of the year.   The higher up the chain, the bigger your cut, so John Thain (Merrill Lynch to BofA to fired) could make, oh, $300,000,000 in bonuses in a year at Merrill-Lynch.  Why?  Because the accounting books showed they made X gazillions in $$$$.  He got his cut, then and there.  If it all proved bullshit later, well, in that fabled Americanism : money talks and bullshit walks. He’s got the money and you’re walking.  Or, there’s a sucker born every minute, said Mr Barnum.

Thus, in a recent interview Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, tried to make a distinction between the “basic inherent economic value” of troubled assets and the “artificially depressed value” that those assets command right now. In recent transactions, even AAA-rated mortgage-backed securities have sold for less than 40 cents on the dollar, but Mr. Geithner seems to think they’re worth much, much more.

And the government’s job, he declared, is to “provide the financing to help get those markets working,” pushing the price of toxic waste up to where it ought to be.

What’s more, officials seem to believe that getting toxic waste properly priced would cure the ills of all our major financial institutions. Earlier this week, Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, was asked about the problem of “zombies” — financial institutions that are effectively bankrupt but are being kept alive by government aid. “I don’t know of any large zombie institutions in the U.S. financial system,” he declared, and went on to specifically deny that A.I.G. — A.I.G.! — is a zombie.

Wrote Paul Krugman, Nobel Laureate, etc. today

We note that Mr Bernanke and Geithner were and are both up to their necks in producing the present problems, and their view of the imaginary value, non-zombie status, etc. of their friend’s businesses is, to put it modestly, self-serving.  And false.  And ought to be criminal.

Just like in Hollywood producers like big budget films, which in turn gives them a numerically a bigger upfront sum of the budget.  In many places a producers cut is more or less fixed, like 10%.    Now if that stays the same whether you make a $500,000 film (50K cut) or a $100,000,000 one ($10 million), it makes a certain kind of avaricious sense that you’d prefer the bigger budget.  Especially since your cut comes in front, and if the film totally bombs you don’t have to cough up the money as punishment for others’ losses.  So from your viewpoint a huge turkey is financially a lot more utilitarian than a little masterpiece.  The distortions of this incentive trickle-down in the movie biz as in Reaganomics:  the movie star gets 10 mil for 6 weeks “work;”  the gorilla grip gets $500 a day to mostly sit on his butt waiting to move something (not bad for blue-collar labor).   And none of them have to pay back if it all fails.   And kind of like on Wall Street, failure doesn’t condemn you to loss of work, you just move to some other entity to do more of the same.

Same “done deal” on Wall Street.  So the wizards of finance, our Masters of the Universe, have a very compelling logic to either push their luck or even to simply invent fraudulent ways to pad the balance sheet:  they get their cut at the end of the year.  So, over time, unregulated, thanks to having bought off the US Congress and individuals in the existing regulatory agencies to “loosen up the rules” so they could be economically freer to “innovate,” these brightest of the bright invented an inpenetrable mumbo-jumbo of arcane jargon which even they couldn’t quite follow.   Although many seemed to follow it closely enough to know when to dump their stocks and bail-out, dressed in their golden parachute pre-contractual departure fee,  just by coincidence before the stocks in their endeavors nose-dived and left their “investors” empty handed.   Done collectively, pressed by the showy “success” of the folks down the street, a good number of these souls have done very well by this system – such as Henry Paulson,  recent  US Treasury Secretary, a big supporter of loosening the regulatory rules for investment banks, plain old vanilla banks, and more or less any kind of bank, trader, etc., and who himself made a very handsome bundle for his bother, or the current Secretary, Mr. Geithner, a protege of Mr Paulson, who similarly made his bundle before becoming head of the New York Fed, under whose regulatory nose all this occurred.  As the Hollywood counterparts do, they of course got their cut in front, and though as it turned out all the “profits” were in fact little more than accounting sheet tricks of leveraged loans to dead-beats, well tough shit, it was all “legal” as they say, and they, of course, are keeping their just “rewards.”

And, since most of these folks are Republicans, as the game has fallen apart and the flimsy architecture of paper is tumbling to the ground all about them, naturally they complain about imminent increases in their taxes.   Or they insist that Reaganomics works, and tax cuts should remain, and loose regulation, and that the real problem was those deadbeats who bought a McMansion on borrowed dough, and didn’t pay up on schedule, or that the few regulatory controls left were to blame!   Now a year or so ago they could have waxed eloquently on how Reaganomics worked, and pointed to all the trickle down “wealth” which one could see, say, in your local Starbucks, or the gourmet restaurant down the street, or the vast assortment of McMansions lining the outskirts of all our major cities:  how’s that for fuckin’ wealth, and all thanks to the miraculous effects of an unfettered Free Market.

Per capita US credit card debt was around $10,000 in 2008.  It all adds up to 2.6 trillion, of which, as jobs are shed, borrowing from that shrinking asset called your house stops, the credit card issuers hike the rate to 30% because you missed a payment, etc. etc., doubtless much will turn into “default” for which our wonderful government will print up another 2 trillion to throw, no, not at you, but at “the system” – the very banks which knowingly loaned the money in their interests of making more money (at 10-30% interest, made out in many cases to persons who had no such capacity to earn and pay).

To say the wonderful wild wealth of the last decades was all a con, a fraud.  Those on the very top did very well by it, and will retain their 3rd house in the Hamptons, their pied a terre in Paris, and all their other dubiously begotten wealth.   Though perhaps some, on their drive to the Montana gated community nestled near Yellowstone will find the occasional gunshot aimed their way by the local disgruntled ranchers or meth-heads whose lives have been discomfited by the downturn.

Of course in the present all-negatives climate, movie ticket sales are in a sharp uptick, nothing like burying one’s head in the gossamer sands of a Hollywood fantasy.


A little “democracy” in Seoul.  Government police guard the National Assembly to keep out members of the leading opposition party.  Recently the President, who came into office with a good majority, has made a habit of stubbing his political toes.  He was elected as a prominent successful businessman who asserted he’d wave his magic wand and the Korean economy would fly.  Instead he tangled with importing US “crazy” beef, and a demonstration over that led to a larger beef about his authoritarian style, leading to long generalized demonstrations against him.  More recently he appointed a new police chief for Seoul, who promptly went from frying pan to fire when his troops, aiming to oust some squatters camped out on the top of a downtown building, instead ended up setting blaze to the place, killing a handful of people, and bringing the police chief under pressure for heavy-handed and unnecessary tactics.   He hung on a while and then resigned.  President Lee’s support figures are headed to th 10% and Korea dithers, its economy caught fully in the global slide.

On a personal note my won savings have diminished by 40% or so, going from 980 won a buck when I arrived to 1540 won a buck by yesterday’s exchange rates.   Financial wizards though predict in another 6-9 months it should be back to 1000 won a buck as it is expected that the dollar will at some juncture swoon and then shrivel up and die.   So much for my “retirement” savings….   I didn’t have a 401(k), or any debts, and now my earnings get sliced almost in half.  Thanks AIG and Citicorp et al.  And thanks to Mr Bush for the no-regulations free-for-all of the last 8 years…..   As we all know, the Mystical Magic Market Economy solves all problems all by itself.  Just let it be free!

And in New York’s Central Park.

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