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Monthly Archives: February 2010

Tea plantation, Cameron Highlands

Leaving the lower elevations of Gua Musang we went in van on up to Cameron Highlands, the main town of Tanhah Rata being a tourist trap, with hotels and the usual claptrap of stores to sell local items. Our friend Chan, who was visiting home from her studies in Seoul, picked us up and drove us 18 km on to her home town, a small village near Ringlet.   Her father and mother run an apparently successful farm business located some distance away, perched on top of one of the hills.

Marcella in the tea leaves

Chan, her father’s farm

At a higher elevation, the Cameron Highlands are cool in the evenings, and less hot during the day, which I imagine is a large part of its tourist value, especially for Malaysians.  While beautiful, it is now a busy agricultural area, using hi-tech means of plastic covered greenhouses, drip irrigation and the rest of the rationalized modes of modern farming.  I was told most the produce is shipped down to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, all having to thread a single very windy, mostly two-lane road.  It seems obvious to me that as the farming expands (which it appeared to be doing very aggressively) either some road-widening will be in order, or some other transport solution.   Along with the change in the climate also came an ethnic change – the Highlands are predominantly Chinese-Malaysian, with many Indian and Bangladeshi workers brought in to do the dirty stuff, originally by the English who started the tea-plantations.  Malays are a very clear small minority.  Which brings the matter of just what is Malaysia, or a Malay.  In KL on the metro, it seems akin to Singapore, a real mish-mash of South East Asian, from India and Pakistan, to Chinese, and of course, the local blood, Malays.  The latter are Muslim, and while representing about 50% of the population, they dominate the political scene, and with that, the economic sides of what politics does.  About 30% of the population is Chinese, and they dominate the economic side.  The remaining population is a mix of Indian, Pakistanis, Bangladeshi – they do the cheap labor for the most part.   Naturally such a division makes for frictions and a certain kind of racism:  socially there doesn’t seem to be much mixing, so the Malay Muslims stick with their own, the Chinese with theirs, and the various others their own communities.  On a national level this doesn’t make for the best situation and I gather there is a generalized resentment of the others:  Malays feel the Chinese are too rich and pushy; the Chinese feel the Malays are lazy, disorganized and parcel out via politics what properly should go to those who work; the others doubtless feel the brunt of exploitation, used for cheap labor – but still, better than back home.  And then there are other cultural things: Muslims don’t drink or gamble, the pray five times a day, don’t eat pork and many other specific things.  The Chinese drink, gamble, have other shrines and temples, eat pork and otherwise are themselves, quite different from the Malays.  The others similarly have differing beliefs, practices and looks.

Above I’ve been talking of the peninsular part of the country, and while we had a lay-over in Kota Kinabalu, I can’t say a thing about the Borneo part, which is larger though less populated, except that I’d think it is its own place, rather different from its population break-down, and with its own view on things.   To say that beneath the laid-back tropical languor there’s a silent tension, one which erupts periodically in lethal violence – last time in 1969 in Malaysia, though much worse cases have happened across the Straits of Malacca in Indonesia more recently.   As a vague generalization the Chinese are viewed across SE Asia as interlopers, and are envied for their work-ethic success.

Back in KL we had a last day with Azam and some of his friends.  He comes from a kampung about 3 hours to the south, near Singapore.  He’s doing the “back-stage” documentary on U-Weih’s film.  He let us know that for about 50 Ringit a month we could rent a normal kampung house (shack on stilts usually) in his village – that’s about 15 bucks.  Or he offered us his grandfather’s larger and now unoccupied traditional house for free for a year.  Once our crystal ball clarifies we just might take this offer up as both Marcella and I rather like Malaysia and kicking back to live on $5000 or less a year sounds like a good deal.  At least for a while.

KLAzam

No, not an Annish Kapoor, but Jon getting ready to slide down the tube in a children’s park near an Indian temple.  Shot by Azam, who went in with us, his first time to visit another religion’s place of worship.  About which more later.

Feb 18,  Gua Musang, Malaysia

A few days listless in Kuala Lumpur, during the begining of the Chinese New Year – Year of the Tiger, predicted by astrologers to be a lousy run around the sun – we took a bus to Kuala Lipis, a small town near the setting of U-Weih’s new film based on the Conrad book, Almayer’s Folly, where we visited with Sam, his Australian set-designer.  We saw some rudimentary roads gouged into the red earth, the basic foundations of a house, the river bank where in 8 weeks will – supposedly – stand an old-style house, another “palace,” a warehouse and a small local village, all circa 1880 or so.  It’s an ambitious production, aiming for an international presence, a first for Malaysia.  Given the torpid tropical heat and the habits of life that come with it, I found myself skeptical it will be, as planned, all there in 2 months when shooting begins.

One of U-Weih’s film settings

Told of the lead actor’s – some Aussie TV fellow – behavior of already beginning to twist the schedule I wonder how the prima donnas of the cast will take to the elemental amenities of Kuala Lipis, a small backwater town.  I suggested they dump the TV guy now.   Perhaps unjustifiably I smell problems and am glad I don’t have to deal with them.  Marcella may return, at their invitation, in May or June, to spend some days shooting a “back-stage” something.

[Little note: somewhere back 6 months or so ago I read in some film trade rag that Chantal Ackerman was making a film based on the same book.]

After a rickety local train ride in a car minus a window, nearly all broken seats, sounding as if a bearing or two were shot, noisily shunting over rough tracks we arrived at Gua Musang,  just outside a national rain forest park, where we checked into a very funky hotel to the tune of $9 a night or so. It was right next to a KFC, the distinct fumes of which invaded our room.  The KFC was the only evident sign of much not local – and I can’t comprehend why anyone here would eat there given the local places down the street with much better food for less – ah, the wonders of “branding.”

Outside, the town is eerily like an American western town: mainstreet, a few parallel streets, a vague similarity in the architectural forms if not the decor.  Further on there’s a place of shanties that gives way to a Chinese section of finer houses, street-front restaurants, a small park.  The Chinese homes open to the street, families haunched on their porches or sitting visible inside.  It’s just been the Chinese New Year, so banners and good luck placards grace their doors, red lamps hang across the streets and fireworks still explode .  From their looks, and the children who practice their “hello,” I gather foreigners are few and far between in their part of town.

Yesterday, a man and his wife and child approached me, warmly saying “Hello.  Welcome.  Where are you  from.”  He had his hand thrust out to shake and just as his hand slid into mine and a went to grasp, I said “America” and his had stopped, withdrew, and he promptly hustled his family away.  It was hardly the first time I’d noted a frosty demeanor once I said I was from the US.  On the train coming here I talked to the ticket taker, who likewise was less than friendly once I said the dirty word, but I confronted him with it, and let him know that many Americans do not like what their government does, and we managed to have a little talk in very broken English.  It is clear that among the Islamic population here – about 70% – America is not kindly seen.  Perfectly understandable to me.  While here I’ve read a book on Islam by Karen Armstrong (back a few years ago I read another at Maher al Sabagh’s request, preparing to write some things for his film The Arabian Dream). Still, it is disconcerting and for the rest of the stay I think I’ll be Italian along with Marcella.

We intended to go to the national park, a protected rain forest jungle, but we got waylaid during a late lunch in the Chinese district where a woman snared us into a restaurant, we had an excellent meal, and then she shunted us to her extended family’s table where my beer glass never emptied.  I stumble away a bit drunk and bedded down at 6:30 to awake at 8 am.  Hmmmm…

The train conductor who initially recoiled at my word I was American.  We had a nice if limited talk.  His job was to get on the train at Kuala Lipis, where he lived, punch the passenger tickets with an assistant, sit for the 90 minute ride, get off at Gua Musang, and catch another train back.   End of work day.

Limestone mountains jutting out around Gua Musang

Malay kids (Marcella’s foto)Alice Ho, from Kota Kinabalu, who got me drunk


Gua Musang seemed divided into 2 basic parts, though we learned on leaving there was another section.  One was downtown and nearby, with some rather dilapidated residential areas of shanties we walked through with the people there friendly but surprised anyone would walk through.  Very funky, dirty, ramshackle.  Downtown and these areas were clearly Malay (Muslim).  Then there was the Chinese area, laid out in a rectangular range of streets centered around a small park.  It was neater, clearly more wealthy, and alive with small restaurants, shops, the tail end of the New Year celebrations still going on.  In the Muslim area we had some nice street meals – one I had and liked a lot was a spicy soup of intestines.  Very good, very cheap.

Sign on the hotel ceiling pointing to MeccaWell-hung banana tree

On leaving we got a van that runs daily from Gua Musang to the Cameron Highlands town of Tanah Rata.  It picked us up at our ratty little hotel and proceeded to what seemed a classier suburban area of better houses, a little shopping strip of new stores, bigger mosque than the one near the center of town, and a “nice” hotel where we picked up 8 other passengers, all westerners (US & France) who’d all been to the rain forest park.  Some of them affected a hippiesque New Age mode and Marcella and I laughed at their need for this nice tidy hotel, and doubted they’d checked out the other part of town.  If prices were normal I’d guess the hotel ran $40-50 or so, a bargain to most western people, but then it isolates you from the place you are visiting.   While I’d have liked to go to the rain forest, I wouldn’t have liked to do so with these folks.   On getting left off in Tanah Rata most the others got out at a totally westernized New Agey place completely occupied by other folks from  all over Europe, Australia, etc., 100% white.   A “Lonely Planet” place.  Our friend from Seoul, a Malaysian Chinese, Chan, picked us up and drove us through the Highlands near Ringlet to her family’s house where we are now.  Of which more soon.

Tea plantation near Ringlet, Cameron Highlands

For more pictures of our trip see Clara’s blog

Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur seems to leap each time I’ve visited – originally here five years ago, it felt like a “3rd world” place of dirt roads, shanties, with little eruptions of modernity, like the Petronas Towers breaking through the surface; last year’s visit showed a leap into the future, and in a mere additional year the changes are tangible.  A bit unnerving the rapidity of the shifts, with gleaming office sky-scrapers filling the valley, freeways (traffic jams), a sprawl of residential areas poking up high-rises all around.   We’re staying with U-weih, who is deep into preparations on a new film – a big budget one, based on the Conrad story Almayer’s Folly. (For more on U-weih’s film see this.)  It requires building some large sets – houses in the jungle, an old steam-boat – and has a cast of regionally famous actors, a famed Polish cinematographer, and the necessary office bustle to accomplish all this.  They start shooting in April and hope to finish in 9 weeks, just before the monsoon season.  To me it is all an alien world, far removed from the kind of filmmaking I have done which I think of as slightly overblown home-movies with friends and not much else, and which increasingly I find less and less interest in doing (or any kind of filmmaking).  Apparently this will be Malaysia’s biggest film, though you wouldn’t guess it from U-weih’s modest demeanor.  Or maybe he does that just for me!

We’re here another few days, and then wander north – we thought to Penang but now think perhaps to a rain-forest jungle area, far from the bustle of KL, though into another bustle of evolutionary wonders working from the same essential bifurcated forms we call “life.”  And then we’ll go visit a friend, Chan, at her family’s home in the Cameron Highlands, an area of civil landscapes of carefully terraced tea-plantations.  Then back it seems to shoot a little something for U-weih before returning to Seoul.  In the meantime putting things here is likely to be sparse.

NYT Feb 9 2010

“Investors and traders find solace in 10,000,” said Jeffrey A. Hirsch, editor of The Stock Trader’s Almanac. “While it may not be important technically, falling below that level indicates that the whole economic picture is not as rosy as everyone had thought.”

Jasper Johns, #2

“You can tell investors there’s no contagion, but it doesn’t matter, because people start to think there’s more than one cockroach,” said Thomas J. Lee, chief United States equity strategist at JPMorgan Chase. “Right now, it’s still a little wait and see.”

“People worry that this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back again,” Mr. Stone said.

So speak our wizards of finance, explicating the mystic qualities of the numbers, the flux of energies which animate that most sacred entity of our time, The Market, that most glorious expression of the most firm belief under our dim firmaments, Capitalism. Like other practices of the same kind, this one comes dressed in its own arcane language, which most of the populace does not and cannot and should not fathom, and hence is required to defer to mandarin experts the better to understand. Rattling off the long list of buzz-words and acronyms – LIBOR, derivatives, leveraged-buy-out, – the eyes glaze over, as if hypnotized, and the congregants move as told, signing up for their 401K’s, assured by the priests of Wall Street and their cohorts that nirvana will be theirs come retirement time, their modest bundle magically expanded by the one fish to millions by the mumbling of certain words better left to the experts of the priesthood. It is an old story, of course, derivative (!) in our culture of the long-ago much fabled Greeks who told of the Golden Fleece. Well, if you were one of those taken in by the smooth talk of Reagan and others who told you that it would be better for you if you put your trust in the market, and… well, you’ve been fleeced. Retirement time is here for many, and the little nest-egg, to stick to the clodded linguistic clichés that seem to govern those of the fiscal inclination, ain’t. Or actually it is, but it was long ago converted into some investment banker’s 3rd home or second yacht, and you can’t have it.


Occasionally I subscribe to things normally out of my interests – economics blogs and letters, right-wing rant screeds, other odds and ends. An effort to keep up with the wider world, whatever my tastes think about it. One newsletter I get is Money Morning, a tip sheet for investors, which reveals all one needs to know about the investor mentality: if it’ll make money, they say BUY! Period. So it recently counseled military-industrial stocks as a good bet. You bet. And likewise they’re game for a profit, whatever the morality, ethics, social consequences. Here’s the lingo:

Welcome to The Syndicate

Play alongside The Syndicate and you are playing with the House. My conservative estimate is that this will increase your money by 62% before the first crack of the bat on Opening Day.

But if you continue to play against The Syndicate, then your odds drop alarmingly. This is because, right now, The Syndicate has a plan. A story.

And this story – a massive short squeeze – will leave you poorer. Very quickly.

What no one is telling you about this NEW STOCK MARKET could make you 62% richer IF you act right now

Think of the market as a story being written by a tight Syndicate of wealthy, smart traders.

Money is essentially a social contract, and like all social contracts it assumes trust between the contracting parties.  When that trust frays or collapses, the agreements made falter and become meaningless.  It would seem that in America the social trust required – that between neighbors, between buyer and seller, between “citizens” – is getting rather ragged.  For me it became tangible some decades ago, when, having in my younger days hitch-hiked from Los Angeles to Montana (a few times) and elsewhere as well, I decided sometime in the late 1970’s,  just for the fun and pleasure of it (you do meet people, find adventures, etc.), to catch a ride from LA to San Francisco.  I didn’t have to, as I had the money to take a train or plane.  So I went to a once-favored spot just out of Santa Monica on Highway 1, the gorgeous Pacific off to the west, the tawny bluffs of Pacific Palisades to the east.  I stood in the California sun, thumb out, happy, periodically receiving the epithets of  kids in sports cars or classy sedans (doubtless bought by their Beverly Hills parents) who shouted “get a job.”   After a few hours of this abuse and the clear understanding that a ride was not in the cards, I packed it in, caught a bus to the airport and flew.

Thanks to myriad things – among them Charles Manson and others of his kind, as well as to the later Reaganite mantras – the social trust had and would evaporate.   It continued to decline rapidly as the social engineering of the late 50’s and 60’s was undone, greed became “good” and community, having too much of a kinship with “communism” became suspect along with its cousin, communication.  Not much later Limbaugh took to the airwaves, to jostle along with the hell-and-damnation preachers, and before you knew it, America was at war with itself, uniting only for trivial matters like Super Bowls and World Series, or by the traumatization of 9/11.  Soon our currency will be worth about as much as these North Korean pieces of paper.

And perhaps we’ll be led by this lady, the present paladin of the tea-party folks, who is clearly gunning for running in 2012, never mind the embarrassment of being caught cribbing on TV this week, reading her talking points off the scribbles on her palm.   And given the state of the nation, and the failure of Obama and his alleged political party to act in any way at all so far – save for pleasing the bankers for a bit (though they are apparently starting to place their future bets elsewhere, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall far earlier than most: they put him in there, they can take him out), it seems quite feasible that a woman considerably dumber than Bush could indeed take the mantle of American leadership, and perhaps drive us further apart and deeper in the hole of our own communal self-willed ignorance.

You go, girl!

The Labor Department said the number of people filing first-time claims for unemployment increased by 8,000 to 480,000 last week, far above Wall Street’s estimates of 455,000.

And the other news, percolating up from the denser pages of the economics journals announces the imminent default of Greece on its debts, shaking the Euro zone like an earthquake, especially since also in line for defaults are those other places which, exactly as the US did, went in for a debt-fueled building boom in the last 15 or so years: Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and… and even the UK.  All the dominoes lined up to do an American-style swoon, for pretty much the same reasons – greed, fiscal folly, hubris.  And of course our All-American swoon has only just begun, despite the weekly encouragements about recovery emanating from the White House or Wall Street mavens, for whom keeping the shell game going as long as possible is either financially or politically necessary:  Americans are not to be trusted with the god-awful truth, and besides they’re already quite angry now.   Mollify them with happy smile lies while the credit card companies, caught in the liquidity squeeze jack up the interest rates, banks tack on new charges and goose the old ones, loans are on terms too costly for anyone but fools, and the economy – or what’s left of it – congeals and freezes.

Everyone on Wall Street is fixated on The Number.

The bank bonus season, that annual rite of big money and bigger egos, begins in earnest this week, and it looks as if it will be one of the largest and most controversial blowouts the industry has ever seen.

So the DOW Jones dipped to 10K almost, having climbed back from 6.6K nadir of a mere 11 months ago.  Aside from the massive infusion of unaccountable TARP slush funds and other interventions to allegedly avert a Depression, nothing really fundamental has changed since then, except of course for more lost jobs, defaulted mortgages, closed businesses, nose-dived retail sales, and other less than happy-face matters.  However, also in the financial pages items is the most important matter of just how much Lloyd Blankfein, of the instantly turned-around profit-making Sachs Goldman, is going to reward himself for the year’s amazing work.  Will it be 100 million, or more or less.  This news is important because his cohorts in the Wall Street game will peg their self-chosen payout to what he does.  No cojones bigger allowed, but can’t be too much smaller or you’ll get notched down on the Big Board Balls game.

Pigs at the trough

Not to be outdone by the honchos of Wall Street, the arts world weighed in with its own bid for out-of-tune-with-the-times award, and at Sotheby’s auction a one-of-six copies sculpture by Alberto Giocometti went down with the gavel at a mere 96 million bucks, plus commission of another 8.6 mil, making for a grand total of 104.6 and the largest single sales figure at auction ever.  The previous record holder, trailing at only $100,000 less, was a Picasso.

The buyer was anonymous, rumored perhaps to be a Russian tycoon.  In a world of fast and loose money all this fits, though the morality of it all eludes some.  To some it seems all a particularly cruel form of, well, bullshit:

UPDATE Feb. 6 2010

Goldman Sachs’s chief executive, Lloyd C. Blankfein, was granted a $9 million bonus on Friday, all in deferred stock, ending weeks of speculation about how he would be rewarded for his remarkable — and controversial — success in running the Wall Street giant over the past year.

The award is well below the $68 million bonus Mr. Blankfein received in 2007, even though 2009 was a record year for the Wall Street bank.

Note the phrasing here: “was granted” by – well, who does the granting? Lloyd Blankfein, CEO, who at the board meeting puts his balls on the table and says “kiss” and they do. And note the drastically diminished number, done as a momentary concession to the political moment wherein awarding himself the rumored 100 million would have seemed gauche. I am sure in the tiny print hidden in the paperwork there’s some manner in which the sum he was properly due, in the minds of Wall Street honchos, is accommodated. Appearances are everything, as these financial thugs know well, as do their tailors.


A.I.G. Plan for $100 Million Bonus Payout Draws Fire

So reads the headline today, following the others about Sachs Goldman back in the profit column (in part because they got $1 on the dollar in their dealings with guess who – AIG – when they should have gotten a few pennies), which was issuing itself mere billions in bonuses.  As these things happen we hear the chorus of complaint – how could they do this when millions are losing their mortgages, their jobs, have they no understanding of what is going on.   They just don’t get it ! The answer, though, is yes they know very well what is going on, they “get it,” more than you or I, and they are out to get while the getting is still good.  They know the house of costly cards is already a heap on the ground and they’re extracting every last buck out of it that they can, and J.Q. Public, living down the street under a cardboard box be damned.  Those millions, stashed away out of reach to the tax-man will build a nice house in some warm clime, etc.

Edward Liddy, current CEO of AIG

Robert Benmosche, last year’s CEO of AIG

BofA Approved More Than $4 Billion For 2009 Pay

Brian Moynihan, CEO of BofA at Davos

Now do these guys look like some regular old Joe’s or more like a bunch of nut crushing thugs?  I can guarantee you there’s only one way you get to where they are, and that is by smashing whoever gets in your way.  Pin-stripes are no longer the banker’s uniform.  I once saw Mr Gotti on Elizabeth Street in New York’s Little Italy.  He dressed very classy too.

Meantime our well-intentioned President has produced the headline below, either showing the he really doesn’t get it, or he’s in for a final round of rope-a-dope before letting the hammer down.   You would think one didn’t really need any more evidence as to what the Republicans want – they want Obama to fail, at whatever cost to the country, and nothing else.  Perhaps he’s merely setting them up in case anyone didn’t get it yet.  Or perhaps he’s just a terminal nice guy.

Obama Acts to Engage G.O.P., Testing Party’s Intentions

Pence and Boehner

James O’Keefe and friends

Fresh from his success with breaking Acorn in his practice of creative journalism, James O’Keefe, along with some other conservative campus activists, perhaps victims of their own hubris, were arrested in Louisiana last week masquerading as telephone repairmen as they entered Senator Mary Landrieu’s office.  Busted, they face an interesting time in the next months explaining how it was just a prank, and that they weren’t really out to tap Landrieu’s phone, or otherwise plant some kind of electronic spying device – all of them, along with the fraudulent means of gaining entry, felony crimes.   O’Keefe and his cohorts are self-proclaimed conservatives, and thanks to the Acorn “prank”  are much adored by Foxy and friends.  What is interesting is that these are supposedly “law and order” types, who are all for draconian punishments for those who break the law, unless it’s one of their own, in which case of course it is the law that is at fault.  Mr. O’Keefe says what he is doing is “to get to the truth and expose corruption,” though we don’t recall him being so active during Bush’s most obviously corrupt turn.  I read that the sentence for the crime which Mr. O’Keefe and his friends were caught at is 10 years.  Hopefully he can do an exposé on Federal Prisons in the near future.

Scott Roeder

Next in the line-up is Scott Roeder, self-admitted killer of George Tiller, doctor in Wichita, Kansas, who did legal abortions.  In his court room defense Roeder explained that he did indeed kill the doctor, on purpose, because the doctor did, well, legal abortions.   Scott Roeder is perceived as a hero by many, if not all, in the anti-abortion crowd, most of whom say they are “Christian.”   Despite his change of costume in court, below, the jury in Kansas deliberated 35 minutes and convicted him for first degree murder.  The judge sentenced him to life imprisonment.

Scott Roeder in court

A meaningful democracy presumes an aware, informed, reasonably educated public of whom its voters is composed.  The voter is asked to make choices on numerous things – things which are often complex, difficult, and against one’s immediate apparent self-interest.  The voter is asked to select someone to “represent” them, a person who is a surrogate for them.  If, owing to the complexity of the real world, they do not themselves know certain things, they presumably select as their representative persons wiser, more informed, more capable to make choices on their behalf. So goes the theory.  In practice, in America, where education has been ravaged both by the effects of corporate media and the internal corrosion of the educational system itself, and where the average person is poorly or often willfully misinformed, the assumptions of a meaningful democracy are at best dubious, and at worst, catastrophic.  De Tocqueville perceived this quite some time ago, predicting that America would end more or less where we are now.   Those on the mandarin Right would opt for rule by experts – their own, naturally.   Those on the populist Right would opt for rule by hook-or-crook – whether it be by elections engineered by a rightist Supreme Court (2000), or by the skulduggery of the likes of James O’Keefe, or the blatant violence of a Scott Roeder.  Might makes right in their book – hence their hankering for guns, for police (so long as they aren’t aimed at them) and “leaders.”

The American left, if one can call it that, is loathe to admit that much of its support is derived from poorly-educated people who do indeed vote that way because they are given some social assistance, though they may not know much else.   Though I think the liberal side is more supportive of efforts to raise the educational level of the general public, and tries – against the odds in the USA – to take steps to do so.   In the scrum between these we’re caught with a contradiction which our system seems unable to sort out, and the consequence is a fraudulent “democracy” in which minorities within the system (Senators from thinly populated rural states) are able to hijack decisions, and in which other minorities are able to tilt the scales despite their mis- and ill-informed understanding of the realities around them.   And all this is deeply muddied by the ill-begotten forces of money – recently underlined and enforced by the Supreme Court – which manipulates the various under-parties at will.   This reality bodes ill for the Union.

Tea-party in Dallas

The administration released its forecast for the coming decade, a grim one of unemployment and a national deficit far beyond what is considered “sustainable.”   Government forecasts are almost always optimistic and wrong, most often – if not always.  So if the government is saying this, you can bet it’s likely to be worse.  For example, the figure for “unemployment” below is 10% when it is much more likely around 20%.   As things squeeze more, we can anticipate more “tea-parties” or other expressions of social discontent.  Meantime a friend in Chicago sent an article about the CIA on campuses.  Same old story.

Jasper Johns, Target

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