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Monday, October 16, 2006


Nightmares at Pennsylvania Avenue

Bob Woodward's "State of Denial" * India's Dubious Honor * Google/YouTube

In a lead article titled Cross Eyed and Clueless, The Economist commented about Bob Woodward's "State of Denial". "Mr Woodward's critics on both left and right have complained that this is all old hat. '“We've read this book before,'” says Tony Snow, Mr Bush's press secretary. But it matters, because Mr Woodward can hardly be classified as a Bush-hater. '“Bush at War'” painted such a flattering portrait of the great leader that the Republican National Committee sold it on its website. And it matters because the Woodward publicity machine is a mighty engine. '“State of Denial'” has already sold out its first printing of 750,000 copies, and Mr Woodward is omnipresent on cable TV." Iraq continues to plague the president. Attacks against U.S. soldiers have increased; 56 more died between October 1-15.

Three weeks before midterm elections, if they are having nightmares at Pennsylvania Avenue there is more than Woodward's book to account for them. Putting it mildly, the projections don't look encouraging. No less a source than the Congressional Quarterly's Weekly Report (for the period Oct.9-13) presents a bleak landscape for the G.O.P. However, Democrats have reason to be wary. The backlash against Republicans does not mean approval for Democrats; currently they are being seen as lesser of two evils and that is not something to bank on.

India Ranked No.1 In BPI

BPI is the acronym for Transparency International's Bribe Payer's Index ! In a report datelined 5 October, Times of India/India Times reported "India World Leader In Greasing Palms"

  • " LONDON/NEW DELHI: India doesn't just have loads of corruption at home, it is also the world leader in exporting graft.
  • Months after Transparency International ranked India as among the more corrupt societies in the world, the NGO'’s Bribe Payer's Index 2006 shows that Indian exporters are more willing than their counterparts from other countries to pay overseas bribes to secure business, clinch contracts, do deals and generally get on in the world.
  • Of the 30 countries surveyed by the index, India was the worst '— or most willing to give'— followed by China and Russia.

  • The BPI ranked Swiss companies as least likely to use brown envelopes and backhanders to get the job done. No Asian country figures in the list of the ten cleanest countries. Japan figures eleventh followed by Singapore.
While corruption exists in most countries, the degree of it varies -- the developed nations in the west generally more clean in comparison with the rest. Also, the nature of bribery is different. Here in the United States influence peddling by lobbyists is a fact of life. Award of billion-dollar contracts are based on contributions (in cash or kind) to political parties and legislators. It is a form of legalized bribery and practised at the highest levels of government.

Swiss companies might not pay bribe to get contracts today but they were certainly involved in the Bofors scandal in India in the 80's (the investigation is still continuing). The Swiss banking system is known to promote and encourage stashing of money from illegal transactions, whether bribes or narcotic traffic. Switzerland has been a haven for dirty money for years.

"Down the tube"?

From across the Atlantic, The Scotsman had this to say about Google's acquisition:

"What if Google deal is '£880m down the tube'?

IT SOUNDS like a tale from the dotcom boom and bust era. Technology giant buys a website that's never made a penny of profit for an eyewatering sum which it is never likely to recoup. After Google paid $1.65bn (£883m) for the video sharing site YouTube last week, analysts have been wondering whether history is about to repeat itself.

While the California-based YouTube offers nothing unique in technology terms, it has one commodity which all online media companies covet: a mass audience."

Comments on the Indian BPI story. Text within quotes are excerpts from the Times story:

"The BPI ranked Swiss companies as least likely to use brown envelopes
and backhanders to get the job done."
--> the swiss dont use 'brown envelopes', the swiss ARE a giant brown
envelope, used by bribers and bribees from around the globe to pass
vast monies too large to fit inside quaint brown envelopes. The swiss
dont need to give bribes, their reputation preceeds them. Why mess
around with brown envelopes when every drug dealer, arm dealer, war
profiteer, oil baron, pimp, pusher and kleptocrat of note simply hand
you the fruits of their tireless pursuits for you to squirrel away in
giant underground security vaults, far from prying eyes.

"The newest league table was compiled after asking 11,000 top business
executives in 125 countries"
--> I wonder how many of these "top business executives" were
government officials with the power to hand over oil-drilling rights
to foreign companies. I dont suppose Chevron and Shell won their oil
rights in Nigeria in some sort of an open, transparent auction. You
dont suppose the Nigerian government officials are protecting
Cheveron's assets from marauding oil workers out of the goodness of
their hearts. You dont suppose Mr. Nazarbayev, the president (for
life) of Kazakhstan won his fortunes in a game of poker, or had the
werewithal, on a government paycheck, to send his kids to expensive
swiss, yes swiss, finishing schools, now do you.

I wonder how many of these "top business executives" were government
officials with the power to hand over arms contracts to foreign
companies. Didn't we have those nice swedes filling vast trust funds
controlled by certain indian politicians in return for the right sell
a few hundred pieces of artillary equipment.

And as for mundane items of commerce such as aircrafst and genetically
modified seeds and power generation centers, Boeing does not need to
hand over a brown envelope when it has the US Secretary of State
making a business pitch on its behalf to recalcitrant foreign buyers;
sundry private nuclear companies dont need to hand over brown
envelopes to sell heavy water to third-world power generators when the
threat of sanctions can be dangled; Monsanto does not need to hand
over brown envelopes when the US Secretary of Commerce can make noises
about your textile export quotas.

Different strokes for different folks. Some people hand over brown
envelopes, others simply move an aircraft carrier into your neck of
the woods.

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