Goldman Sachs and people backing it make me sick

July 13, 2009

Goldman Sachs is back to the old ways of the financial services sector in the US, making money on high risk, reports The New York Times.

It seems like it is back to the old days of champagne and caviar for the company in its new avatar as a holding bank, as the company plans to dish out large bonuses to its employees, even as most other people in the US are without jobs or tightening their belts.

On Wall Street, where money is the ultimate measure, Goldman is both revered and reviled, says the New York Times. Not unexpectedly the company’s share price is on the upswing.

Meanwhile, there are dark hints that the bank may be using its old-boy network to benefit from the US government, according to Matt Taibbi in the RollingStone

The bail out of AIG benefited Goldman Sachs, as AIG payed back a large loan from Goldman Sachs after receiving the bail out. And Goldman Sachs, now a beneficary of a deposit guarantee scheme of the US government, has had access to cheap funds to invest.

What sickens me, and I am sure a lot of other people around the world is that it seems to be business as usual in the US for the banks.

We could now be heading towards yet another financial crisis that could hit the whole world. Why ? Because the Barack Obama administration in the US has not pushed through quickly enough measures to regulate the financial services sector and all its various offspring like hedge funds.

Obama sermonizes to the world at large, in Ghana, in the Middle East, and even in Europe. But when it comes to delivery he seems to be up against the financial and business elites Robert Kuttner writes about in the Squandering of America.

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Coming up for air

June 25, 2009

I am back…..and this time I don’t care if millions of people don’t read this blog.

I am blogging again to keep my sanity in a world where we are indundated each day by marketing hype, cant and bluster in a world where truth has become like the plasticine, the clay our children play with.

It is a world where executives of banks that have taken TARP bailouts are using their company jets for private excursions, according to the Wall Street Journal.

It is a world where the gods of the financial Mount Olympus believe they should get a bail out, and they do get it courtesy US President Barack Obama, if only to save the economy.

A world where the new regulations for the finance industry proposed by Obama sounds like a lullaby, rather than a warning against future misbehavior. It won’t put speculators to sleep, but maybe all of us until the next bubble bursts.

It is a world where corruption and doublespeak continue not only in Iran or China but in democratic countries like the US, Europe and India.

It is a world where norms of decency and civility are fast dying out, and getting replaced by individualism and anomie.

I need to blog, to come up for air.


Hillary Clinton has more frequent-flyer miles than Obama !

November 21, 2007

So this is what the Presidential debate boils down to – frequent flyer miles on Air Force One !!

Democratic presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton, who earlier questioned Barack Obama’s experience in managing the economy, now claims that she has traveled abroad more than Obama, also a Democratic presidential contender, both as the wife of former president Bill Clinton, and as a Senator, according to this report in the Washington Post.

In remarks after an event yesterday in Shenandoah, Iowa, circulated by her campaign as “New HRC Comments on Experience,” Clinton was quoted as saying, “I have traveled the world on behalf of our country — first in the White House with my husband and now as a senator. I’ve met with countless world leaders and know many of them personally. I went to Beijing in 1995 and stood up to the Chinese government on human rights and women’s rights. I have fought for our men and women in uniform to make sure they have the equipment they need in battle and are treated with dignity when they return home”, according to the Washington Post.

Hillary Clinton has once again missed the point, sounding more like a yuppie than an aspirant for the top political job in the US. She reminds me of the large number of CEOs who, to prove their importance to the folks back home, pepper their conversation with references to meetings with leaders in China, Vietnam, and India to show just how au courant and well-connected they are.

In contrast, Barack Obama wasn’t name dropping. He said he had lived abroad to prove that he knew how people abroad lived. Living with people abroad can help a politician a lot more than rubbing shoulders over caviar and champagne with political leaders, particularly if they are Chinese leaders totally out of touch with their people.

Perhaps if Clinton had moved from well-choreographed receptions for her husband by foreign heads of state, to actually mixing with the people, they would not be taken by surprise when they find how much Americans are hated in so many countries, and not only in the Muslim world. She would have perhaps realized that Americans’ self perception of invincibility is galling to the rest of the world, and seen by many others as downright patronizing.

Yes, and Hillary Clinton would have understood that the world is now shocked that the run-up to the presidential elections in the US is filled with stories and claims relating to “her days when Bill was President” rather than dealing with substantive issues.

On this front, both Obama and Clinton have preferred to give you the big picture with very little specifics. They haven’t laid out a blueprint for the future of Iraq, or for the US economy, or domestic surveillance, or homeland security, or on foreign policy, except to make some populist noises about universal healthcare.

Instead we hear Obama on his childhood abroad and Clinton’s frequent flyer miles on Air Force One.

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Hillary Clinton wasn’t Treasury Secretary

November 20, 2007

“I am happy to compare my experience to hers when it comes to the economy,” US Senator and Presidential aspirant Barack Obama said according to this report. “My understanding was she wasn’t Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration. I don’t know exactly what experience she’s claiming.”

Obama was responding to the Hillary Clinton campaign’s repeated line that Obama does not measure up to Hillary Clinton in experience. He is right. Clinton can by rights claim no more experience in running government than her predecessor as first lady, Barbara Bush, and her successor, Laura Bush.

By my understanding of US politics, the wife of the President is required to play the role of a very traditional wife – redecorate the White House, host parties, finalize the guest list and the sitting arrangements, and generally look pretty and presentable.

If Hillary wants to suggest that she got experience running the government while she was First Lady, that appears to confirm what a lot of people say about her – that she was poking her nose in affairs of state while husband Bill chased other affairs.

Unless Hillary Clinton wants to suggest that she enjoyed power and profile beyond normally recommended for a President’s spouse, the only superior experience Hillary Clinton can talk about is knowing better stuff like the layout of the White House, which curtains go well with which carpets, and yes how to keep a check on an irrepressibly errant husband.

Perhaps Clinton is not referring to her years at the White House, but as a Senator from New York. One of Clinton’s best known decisions as Senator was to have signed an authorization of war against Iraq, and again signing the dotted line on Iran. If that is experience, Obama is head and shoulders above Hillary Clinton.

Among the Democratic front-runners Obama is campaigning on an anti-Washington anti-Establishment platform, while Clinton is campaigning as the “insider” the person from within the Establishment, who got her experience as part of the Establishment. Neither however shows great leadership, neither “ has a dream”, neither inspires confidence. One for being too naïve to want to overthrow the establishment at one go, the other because she is establishment, not by experience, but by affectation, by her belief that she is pre-destined to occupy the White House.

Unfortunately, at a time when Democrats seem to be best poised to win the White House, the party seems to only throw up a modern-day Don Quixote and a Lady Macbeth. Woe to the world that looks to the US for leadership !


Al Gore wins Nobel; good to go for US presidency

October 12, 2007

Former Vice President Al Gore and the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Friday for their efforts to spread awareness of man-made climate change and lay the foundations for counteracting it, according to an Associated Press report.

Meanwhile people claiming to be grass-roots Democrats plan to draft Gore to contest the Democratic nomination and eventually the US presidency. They have asked sympathizers to sign a petition to Al Gore on their web site called draftgore.com.

Going by his track record on Iraq and his leadership stand on environment issues, Al Gore may in fact give America a chance to play a leadership role worldwide, a leadership built on civic initiatives, rather than on the power of arms, that the country has been associated with under President George Bush.

In my opinion Al Gore has some advantages. One he is not a Clinton nor a Bush. If Gore gets elected as president of the US, it will prove that the country is not short of leaders outside the Bush and Clinton dynasties.

Gore may also help make the world a safer place.

Hillary Clinton voted authorizing the war in Iraq, and has now back-tracked with the naïve line that she didn’t know George Bush would mess it up. In contrast, Gore has criticized the invasion of Iraq as way back as 2002. On consistency he scores over Clinton, but he is on par with Barack Obama.

Gore however breaks from the pack of Presidential wannabes as he comes across as a man with a vision. His commitment to environment issues, and his active participation in a variety of forums on other serious issues like the role of the Internet, makes Gore clearly statesman material, unlike the rest who have yet to articulate a vision of what they stand for politically, socially, and on the environmental front.

Al Gore has so far shown no interest in running again for the Presidency. From his current position as a statesman, he would be getting into the rough and tumble of daily administration, bipartisan politics, and other challenges, including extricating the country out of Iraq and maybe Iran if Bush has already got there by January, 2009. His election is also by no means a foregone conclusion with Hillary Clinton once again aiming for the White House. She has raised cash and set up a campaign organization, that Gore may find tough, though not impossible to match at this point.

But if he changes his mind, he can perhaps help make the world both a safer and cleaner place.

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Alas, yet another Clinton presidency