Investors in limbo

Sunday, December 14, 2008

There is one fault line in American life that not even Barack Obama can heal; it is the chasm between those who believe OJ Simpson killed his wife and those who don’t.

I must make it clear at once that I don’t believe OJ did it.
My reason is simple: I cannot imagine anyone, having just butchered two people, being able to make himself and his house presentable within an hour or so of the bloody killings, and then embarking on an aeroplane flight halfway across the United States, leaving his house open to be searched by any police force – even one as incompetent as the Keystone Kops of the Los Angeles Police.

In the days they had to examine Simpson’s house the LAPD could not find one single piece of incriminating evidence – nothing to connect Simpson to the crime. To rid his house of bloodstained clothing and any trace of incriminating DNA in an hour is beyond the capacities, I believe, of even highly trained decontamination experts and, in my view, stratospherically out of reach to a booby like Simpson.

Only an innocent booby could have dared to write a book speculating how he could have committed the murders of his wife and her friend Ron Goldman. And only a booby would not have realised that there was something very odd about the expedition he was persuaded to lead to recover his property from a Las Vegas hotel room.

The Goldman and Brown families, who obviously hate Simpson from the word go, have never wavered in their belief that OJ was the killer. They know, and like all fundamentalists their knowledge is absolute, immanent and incontrovertible.

They have managed to trap Simpson twice, with two hand-picked juries – getting a wrongful death civil verdict against Simpson and now, getting him jailed on the most obviously rigged evidence in proceedings which I would think do not dignify even such a state as Nevada.

It all came out in the wash. The gang behind Simpson, including the lone gunman, have all got away more or less scot-free. The goat, Simpson, will probably spend the rest of his life in jail if a real court cannot be found to end this travesty of justice.
If people are to be jailed because they are fools, the world would clearly have more people in jail than outside. OJ Simpson will die for their sins.

OJ’s sin was that he ‘wanted to live like a white man’, according to Newsweek at the time, a capital offence on the same order as Saddam Hussein’s pretensions. The difference, of course, was that Saddam actually killed people, like some other leaders more powerful than he.

I really don’t believe that Simpson killed anyone. But to say this is extremely unfashionable.


John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson both believed that black people had been so historically disadvantaged that a century after the abolition of slavery, some reparation in kind would be only just. They were persuaded in this by the advocacy of the Civil Rights Movement of the ’60s and Affirmative Action was one result. Affirmative Action was designed to help all of the oppressed, women, ethnic minorities and other politically handicapped classes to get to a position where they could compete on approximately level terms with those who had historically enjoyed privileges out of the reach of ordinary people.

In the ’80s and ’90s, after the Reagan revolution, it became an article of faith that welfare subsidies – standard in most civilised countries – were in the United States a means to give excessive privilege to women and blacks, especially to the poorest. Mr Bush’s so-called Justice Department actually entered appearance as a friend of the court in a celebrated case five years ago on the ground that using quotas to determine ethnic diversity in universities was unconstitutional and breached the right to equal protection under the law.

In capitalist society, of course, inequality is built into the system. Some are owners and others are workers. In the development of the market system in the US, however, some workers are clearly more equal than others. Over the past 50 years some white-collar workers have captured the commanding heights of corporations, and the owners, the stockholders, have been relegated to being bit players in their own productions. With the departure of the first entrepreneurs, the second and third generations of owners have become spectators as professional “managers” have taken control of the corporations and have enriched themselves beyond the dreams of commonplace avarice. They pay themselves bonuses in the millions whether their companies are booming or failing.

This week one of the Napoleons of the new capitalism demanded a bonus of $10 million after 11 months as chairman and CEO of Merrill Lynch, perhaps the most famous financial services company in the world. John Thain’s basic compensation is about $15 million a year, and in the time that he has been with Merrill, the company became the most high-profile casualty of the current financial disaster, having to be rescued in a takeover by the Bank of America financed by the government of the United States.

Despite this disaster, or perhaps because of it, Thain seemed to believe he was entitled to some super profit. The immediate howl from newspapers, bloggers and others appeared to have persuaded him to withdraw his claim. Thain and others like him are the people most vociferous in attacking the wicked trade unions, particularly the United Autoworkers whose members are derided as parasites battening on poor, helpless companies like General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. Suddenly the US press has begun to examine the claims against the unions and have discovered that the imaginary millionaires of the UAW are paid just a little more than the non-unionised workers in the American factories of Toyota and Honda. They have discovered that it isn’t the unions that are responsible for the state of the US auto industry, but the exorbitantly paid bosses, still building cars for the fifties while the Japanese and Europeans are building cars people actually want to buy.

The government’s rescue of the auto industry will bring some unlooked-for changes in US motor vehicle manufacture. Congress and Barack Obama are thought to want more environmentally friendly cars. They also want the manufacturers to change their focus to include railway engines and other forms of public transportation. When the taxpayer owns GM, life for everybody will be very different.

Unlike wealthy countries like Messrs Golding’s and Shaw’s Jamaica, the US will soon confront a future in which private transportation will be a luxury.

Another world

In Jamaica important facts surface briefly like drowning fish in Kingston Harbour, never to be heard from again. While Mr Golding was busy backing the Spanish hotel developers it was reported almost by the way:

“The project is receiving funding of US$100 million from Spanish investors and US$80 million from Jamaica’s National Commercial Bank and will provide employment for more than 1,000 Jamaicans at a time when other hotel projects, including Trelawny’s multi-billion-dollar Harmony Cove and the 2,000-room Excellence Group rest in limbo.(

Resting in limbo, indeed. And this despite the enormous sums of Jamaican taxpayers’ money spent on the expensive physical infrastructure for these Arabian nights fantasies.

The problem is that all the super-fancy resort developments are in trouble or will be soon. They are facing the double whammy of worldwide tight credit and an evaporating high-end consumer market. I confidently expect to hear that the monstrous cruise ship, Oasis of the Seas, is on hold, to be followed by immediate comfort statements from Jamaica telling us all not to worry: Falmouth will be destroyed anyway.

David Jessop asked last week what we are going to do now that the British and the Europeans are imposing new taxes on air travel to faraway places like the Caribbean, designed to slash the effect of aviation on global warming.

We are not planning any responses to these disasters, depending instead on rescue by Brazilian investors in ethanol – food for cars – when we need to get people to plant backyard food gardens and transform idle sugar land to growing food. I pointed out a few years ago that, on acreage equal to that of Monymusk – one of the smallest Jamaican sugar estates – farmers in Florida were producing US$60 million worth of citrus. We are clearly too advanced for anything like that.

We will, of course, be able to eat bauxite.

Copyright 2008 John Maxwell

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