Letter 5 (page 5)

Interesting things

California now spends more on prisons than it does on tertiary education. Keeping someone in prison for a year costs taxpayers $30 000 and despite a huge increase in prison population during the 1980s, crime rates have hardly changed. Two out of 3 black men are arrested at some time between the ages of 18 and 30.

Australia and Canada tie for 2nd place for computer penetration. In the US there are 0.319 computers per person. For Australia, it is 0.221.

15 years ago, college graduates earned 50% more than those who had only a high school education; now the difference is 96%

Newsweek mentioned that there are twice as many lawyers in the Washington DC metropolitan are than all of Japan. Someone at work told me that there are 10 law graduates in America for each engineer; in Singapore, the opposite is true.

General Motors is going to start selling the Impact electric car later this year in Southern California and Arizona (it became the EV1).

Once a letter goes into the letter box, only Post Office employees are allowed to touch it. Last year a Post Office truck crashed and letters started blowing away. Police officers tried to stand in the way of letters hoping they would blow up against their legs - even they couldn't be more interventionist and actually pick them up.

Voter turnout for the 1994 Congressional elections which ushered in the "Republican Revolution" was just 38%.

US weapons sales for 1986-89 at the end of the cold war were $34.5 billion; the US had a 15% market share, the Soviets had 65%. Sales for 1991-94 were up 140% to $83.1 billion and the market shares are now reversed.

The 10 most fuel efficient cars on the US market together make up less than 1% of total vehicle sales.

There are "approximately 60 Australian business interests in Colorado, the most of any foreign investor country" Aust.-American Chamber of Commerce.

There are estimated to be more than 100 000 guns in the nation’s schools each day.

I haven't done any scientific studies but it seems that very few people in Denver hold a door open for the person immediately behind them.

Two quotes about the Million Man March in Washington last year by black men. One commentator said that white America had been amazed that hundreds of thousands of black men had come together "but there were no outbreaks of crime or basketball". There was a big dispute about how many actually came. The National Parks Service estimated 400 000 but organisers said they did reach their goal. Stevie Wonder said, "There were a million men. I'm not that blind".

The American Presidental year is now in full swing as the election is now "just" 8 months away. It takes so long because there is a series of elections to decide who will be the nominee for each party. Mr Clinton has no challengers, so all the action is, or was, amongst the Republicans.

Bob Dole has just clinched the nomination which is perhaps fortunate. Although I wouldn't support him, at least he has serious policies while the others (Alexander, Buchanan, Forbes and Gramm) offered totally simplistic solutions to complex problems.

Steve Forbes wanted to introduce a flat tax and virtually eliminate the tax department which sounds appealing until you look at the details and see it wont work. In any case, it is Congess that would have to enact the laws. Buchanan was the most outrageous saying that he would push a Constitutional amendment banning all abortions and he made ready-to-hate enemies of immigrants (legal as well as illegal), people in affirmative action programs (i.e. blacks), those on welfare, big business and the government for GATT and NAFTA trade agreements that "take away" American jobs. Phil Gramm was considered a serious contender but has dropped out now. One piece of his campaign literature said, "Phil Gramm is a gun owner, he’s a shooter. He'll tell you that like a lot of gun owners, he has more guns than he needs but not as many as he wants".

Populist candidates used to come mainly from the left of the political spectrum and thay attacked big business which exploited the workers. For reasons I don't understand, Americans now believe that the government is the great enemy and so the populists are now from the right.

And finally

Seen on bumper stickers:

  • Don't drive any faster than your angel can fly.
  • I bought this truck for my wife. Good trade, huh?
  • My wife says that if I go fishing one more time, she’s going to leave me. Gee I'm going to miss her. (I have also seen, "My husband says ...")
  • A picture of Hitler doing the Nazi salute and the words:
    All those in favour of gun control raise your right hand.

Late last year I started writing Lan’s biography. It’s a story of struggle, intrigue, passion and conflict, set against a backdrop of national upheaval - and that’s just the part after she left Vietnam. I haven't made any progress during the last few months so I'll commit myself now to having it finished by the end of the year. It will be short and written by an amateur but if you are interested, let me know and I'll send you a copy when it is done.

You've made it to the end. I hope you enjoyed reading it. I enjoyed writing it while thinking about all of you.

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