Letter 19 (page 1)

19th December 2008

Dear everyone,

It’s been two full years since I wrote a proper letter and finally it seems that there is enough news to justify another. So here goes …

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We still have jobs!

Seeing co-workers sleeping at their desks made Lan grow tired of her job at the Securities and Exchange Commission and she landed a job with Wachovia, a major bank. There was one problem: her office was 380 miles (610km) away from home in Charlotte, North Carolina though this was somewhat offset as Lan has two sisters living there. The expectation was that I’d move there after a year if it was a job she wanted to keep long-term but after 3 months of one of us making the trip to the other city, Lan was allowed to work from home. It really is marvelous what a modestly high-speed internet connection makes possible.

However, in a spectacularly bad move, the company paid $25.5 billion to buy Golden West Financial in May 2006 and with it, a portfolio of mortgages that went bad and greatly contributed to the collapse of the combined company. Another bank, Wells Fargo, is in the process of buying the company but the future is highly uncertain. Indeed, rather than wait for the lay-offs, Lan has already accepted a job with NASA’s Space Telescope Institute to start in mid-December. We’ll have to move across town though as it is impractical to commute from here.

I’m still a web developer at The Motley Fool and for the time being, my job appears secure. Given that we offer stock market advice to investors and that the stock market is way down, you’d expect our income to have crashed but so far it is down but not drastically.

Yes we can

You might have heard that there was an election here recently… In fact, the relentless coverage of the campaign a full year before the election was too much even for me and I stopped listening to National Public Radio. Around that time, I got my first mobile phone which among other things, serves as an mp3 player (occasionally I use it for phone calls!) and I discovered BBC podcastsNote 1 which give a truly global view.

Anyway, I’ve often thought how much better America and the world would have been if John McCain had won the Republican primaries back in 2000 and then the general election. It seems highly unlikely we would have invaded Iraq and given his years spent as a prisoner of war, it is inconceivable that the abuse of detainees we saw at Abu Ghraib would have been tolerated and the prison at Guantanamo Bay would never have been built. He had and still has sensible positions on most issues and even voted against the Farm Bill which subsidizes agro-business.

Yet in 2008, there was an even better option. For us, the right man won but as the satirical newspaper, The Onion, put it, “Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job”.Note 2 President Obama will take office next month with an economy in deep trouble, two wars and a bankrupt treasury. I am greatly encouraged that, with the possible exception of Secretary of State, his appointments to key positions have stellar qualifications but with expectations so high, some disappointment is inevitable.

Lan even got to take part as she became a US citizen earlier this year. Her vote helped tip Virginia to the Democrats for the first time since 1964, the year Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and remarked to an aide, “We have just lost the South for a generation”. I’d include a photo of her accepting her certificate but the ceremony was in a federal courthouse where cameras are banned. Lan can now apply for jobs in defense, leave the US and re-enter whenever she wants, be called for jury duty, run for Governor and join the US Olympic team!

Continue to Out and about elsewhere (page 2)

Jump to In sickness and in health (page 3)

Notes:

  1. BBC World Service podcasts. Note in particular Documentaries and From Our Own Correspondent. Back to where you were Back
  2. The Onion: Black man given nation’s worst job. Back to where you were Back
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