Monday, September 29, 2008

In this posting: Palin Wins the Afghan Grasshopper and the Pakistani Widower- A Candidate and Arab Leaders on Steroids- Kissinger As Elder Statesman?

Alaska's Sarah Palin and Iran's Ahmadinejad failed to convert other UN leaders to their respective faiths. In the Iranian's case it is hard to imagine him converting anyone to anything. He even has less charisma and makes less sense than Senator McCain. He is not as shifty-eyed, though (read the next paragraph).
Palin did win over the new president of Pakistan, the moderate state where the omnipotent ISI plays both sides of the War on Terror, straddling the fence between its former Taliban protegies and its neocon paymasters in Washington. Mr. Zardari, recent widower and former jailbird, properly corrupt in the fashion of all elected Pakistani leaders, was clearly impressed by most of her.

She may even have won over the president of metropolitan Kabul in his green grasshopper coat. Mr. Karzai seemed amused by the meeting, but unlike his Pakistani neighbor he did let go of her hand.

Why did McCain look so shifty-eyed at the first debate? He would not look at Obama, never made eye contact with him, even when they shook hands. It was likely a tactic by his advisers with the aim of making Obama look small, unimportant. It only made McCain look odd, with a silly smirk/grin/grimace pasted on his face that made him look like an advanced resident of one of those homes where they turn off the lights at 8 PM.

Someone asked me late last night as we crossed the SR-520: are politicians allowed to take steroids?
There probably are no rules against them doing so- unlike in sports. The only downside for politicians is that it shrinks their gonads (cojones) down to hazelnut size- a terrible price to pay for any man, especially one with a politician's ego (or his girlfriends).
In that case many Arab leaders should take more steroids than Viagra or Cialis or whatever it is they take. That way they can multitask adequately and, more important, equitably, as required by the rules of polygamy, while continuing to run their countries to the ground. It is not only about walking and chewing gum, nor about running a campaign and suddenly appearing to be busy at Capitol Hill.

“So he theatrically suspended his campaign and rushed back to get in the way of a bipartisan solution to the economic turmoil. When the two macho guys of the Republican Party — W. and McCain — took extreme measures not to look emasculated, they ended up emasculating themselves.” M. Dowd, NY Times.

Henry Kissinger helped open up Chinese-American relations in the early 1970s. After that it was downhill for him as a policy adviser and maker. He was wrong on Southeast Asia. He expanded the Vietnam War into Cambodia and Laos, and thus caused the US to lose all three countries instead of just one, and ushered in the era of Khmer Rouge mass genocide. That is what an elder statesman is: someone who is looked at more fondly, or at least with much less disdain, AFTER they leave office.

Watched Bill Clinton talking about Obama and McCain. This man sure holds a grudge. I can see 2012 written all over his face- but then again, 2008 was also written all over his face four years ago. How about 2016? In any case, it is almost obvious that he fervently wishes for McCain to win.

A Cairo appeals court has passed a two month prison sentence on Ibraheem Issa (Abraham Jesus) the chief editor of the opposition newspaper al-Dustour (which ironically means The Constitution). He has been convicted of spreading rumors about the health of President Mubarak, who is nearly 200 years old. I imagine the editor of the National Inquirer would be beheaded in the moderate New Middle East with its neo-democratic leaders.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Is the Reagan 'Counter-Revolution' Dead?, Gulf Investment Blues, A Financial Banana Republic, A Financial Potemkin Republic

Was the financial crash of the past three days one more nail in a deregulated system that had spun out of control?
The system was never actually 'deregulated'. It was allowed to be 'self-regulating', which meant that it was regulated by an incestuous group of CEOs who were often recycled as they corporate-hopped, essentially changing jobs whenever they failed in one place, moving to other leadership positions in other firms as they left behind wreckage.

Some twenty years ago, at the peak of Reagan's power, market 'guru' Ivan Boesky, soon to be arrested and convicted for securities fraud, went to speak at UC Berkeley, that one time bastion of Free Speech Movement, Mario Savio, Bettina Aptheker, among others. He is reported to have started his lecture by stating that: "You know, greed is good..." And hundreds of young MBA throats cheered their approval.
Soon after, "the Russian" was in jail, proving that at some point of the greed process diminishing marginal returns kick in (but all MBAs are not that big on Econ, not even Micro-econ). But the 'revolution' from the top continued, taking on gaudy and absurd features under George W Bush and the neocons who thought they could run a country as a corporation.

In the bad old days some banana republics used to be run as corporations, they were often run by corporations or their surrogates. (Whatever happened to that Ante-bellum plantation on wheels: the United Fruit Company?). What the Reagan counter-revolution and the Bush sequel have done is to convert the US financial sector into a banana republic, albeit a very powerful one with highly productive and hard-working people. A nation more in debt to the Chinese (the rightwing loves to call them Chicoms)and oil producers.
So far, McCain has not provided any sign that he will be any different if he wins. I am not sure he knows what he will do if he wins.

Mr. Bush is flying to Houston to check on the results of the latest natural disaster, Ike. He is heading away from the bigger disaster created by his own party. And the even bigger disaster created by his re-election in 2004.

In the Persian-American Gulf region, stock markets also declined sharply (the index declined 6.5% in Saudi Arabia, 7.4% in Qatar yesterday). The Saudi market also lost the equivalent of $27.3 billion of capitalization on Monday. State investment funds are already intevening to stem the bleeding.
Many of the Gulf 'sovereign' funds have sustained huge losses in international markets as well, especially the US market. Kuwaiti media report that the US investments arm of Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), which invests for the state, had lost over $5 billion in investments in Merrill Lynch and Citigroup, and that was before the recent crash. That $5 billion loss has certainly increased greatly by now as a result of recent events and the huge decline in shares of these two financials. (I believe whoever is in charge of US investments for KIA should be looking for a new job, and soon). Only last November, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority reached agreement to purchase $7.5 billion in Citigroup. It is not clear how much that is worth now, but it is easy to calculate- you do the math. They must have followed the exhortations of that other investment genius, Prince al-Waleed Bin Talal who called Citigroup's decline a 'mere hiccup' and that was when the share was over $40. Now, it is about $15.

It is not clear how much these funds have in AIG, possibly the next Potemkin corporation to topple, or how much they have (had) in Lehman Bros. AIG under Hank Greenberg was one firm being pushed for some time by Jim Cramer of CNBC, along with CountryWide under Angelo Mazzolo. He also pushed Wachovia when it was worth about $50+. That is what happens when you decide investment policy by looking into the eyes of CEO's and seeing through to their souls- especially if they are your pals.

"According to results of survey, in which over 4,500 people participated, 75% chose McCain while only 22% preferred Obama." Jerusalem Post, Sept 16. Damn, the old codger is more popular in Israel than in Arizona or Texas. More popular than even in Alaska. That's what happens when you get more Russians than 'other' ethnics.

The Seahawks are still as wussy as ever, as their falling apart at home against the 49ers last Sunday proved. Next time they face the St Louis Rams, again at Qwest Field. This is the bottom o the barrel for this season, and if they can't scrape it...well....
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