Friday, February 21, 2014

Government Corruption impacts Foreign Embassies?

Remember Devyani "Cobra" Khobragade?

She being that young-ish Indian Diplomat in what should have been a very posh posting at  the Indian Consulate in New York, who whilst even younger in her career, had been posted to the "ultra-sensitive" Indian High Commission in Pakistan? (How does that happen? read on...)

Then there was this "small" matter of an allegedly independent New Delhi city level Government recently requesting that the Delhi police (which reports/answers-to not the New Delhi City Government, but to the higher national-level "home ministry" of the  national level Government) raid a house in a neighborhood where residents were long complaining of prostitution.

Well third world Governments being what they are, the POLICE REFUSED to do so! (An example of how stupid the corruption really is in India).

Oh.....UNTIL, the prostitutes themselves got wind of a chance to break free from their captivity and approached the Delhi Police in a first person capacity with the backing of the city government.

Along with that, the City Government of Delhi, accused the Indian government of collusion with the mafias in foreign countries, USING INDIAN EMBASSIES in their rackets! 

Then add up the fact that that the biggest Political Parties in India are openly  funded 90.38% by CASH, 89.11% of which is "unaccountable" or untraceable.

You begin to get a sense......of just how BAD it is.

Icing on the cake, of exactly how corrupt the Indian government is, comes THIS article on how India remains, in many Indians' opinions, a neo colonial slave outpost for external profit:


But the purpose of this post is to focus on Consular Corruption. Again, the Indian Embassy in Qatar is quoted, "The Indian Embassy said there was nothing abnormal about this..." and "The Indian Embassy said it was inappropriate to use these figures in a distorted manner, even praising Qatari authorities for taking care of the interests of Indian workers".

Consider ALLLLL of this stuff involving the alleged behaviors of Indian Embassies and foreign service. Consider the Khobragade issue.

NOW TAKE IT FURTHER, consider what you learn from the Indian Government's ineptitude and apply that to what was an open secret in the Middle East,  till as recently as just a few years earlier, where prostitution (notably Russian/Eastern European origin) was RIFE in prominent cities, visible to the street level, in a place where women are/(were?) not even ALLOWED TO VISIT unaccompanied by male relatives....hmmm....must involve embassy level corruption there too......like the Delhi City Government complained about the Ugandan women.

How Nasty.

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The REAL 1%

I  always wondered how effective "the 1 percent" really are in controlling an allegedly democratic and developed (ie where the citizens are capable of thinking for themselves) country.

The movement known as "Occupy Wall Street" imprinted the definition of the 1% in our minds strictly on the basis of ECONOMICS.

Really that's not true.

According to Russell Tice, the 1% that really control the future and present represent the "upper echelons of the intelligence community" ie. the intelligence complex.

This interview's a keeper:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Coal India Limited: A Black story about a Black Commodity and Bleak outcomes from the Dark Sub Continent

P.C. Chidambaram, Minister of Finance (src: wikipedia)

Finance Minister, Palianappan Chidambaram may well be the BIGGEST POLLUTER in India, and India has world class pollution! This is  because he "OWNS"  Coal India Limited (India's Government-Owned, Nationalized, Monopoly Coal producer). By "OWNS" I mean he exercises such overbearing financial control as to dictate its future.

Coal India produces some of the finest, unwashed, Grade F coal (the most toxic and low calorific value type of coal on the scale) in the world. This coal is BURNT (gasp!) to power 70% of  India's 228,000 Megawatts of Electric Power Generation. Except when there is FOG.

Actually, the Fog statement needs explanation: Indian coal is very efficient at throwing out Indian soot particles....the FOG is apparently a GREAT colloidal solvent/medium for the airborne deposition and suspension of soot:

"Tripping of power transmission lines happens when heavy fog mixes with unburnt carbon and other pollutants in the air and settles on the conventional porcelain disc insulators along the lines, shorting the conducting path and triggering a flashover"

See.... the power plant emitted carbon floats down onto the already "crackling" electrical transmission lines, many of them exposed to air (on purpose?...probably the Indian Meteorology Department has found a cunning new, low-cost, distributed sensor for moisture and relative humidity in the air? The newspapers are full of headlines showcasing how India leads the world in sooo many ways.) This carbon soot combines with moisture in the FOG, and this forms an optimal low resistance path for arcing electricity. The arcing dries the soot, removing contaminants from the carbon (the water purification industry calls this "activated carbon"(!)), and then the newly activated carbon can then fall back onto the transmission line, AGAIN, attracting more impurities and repeat the cycle!

Aside #1: When the Americans found out about this property of carbon, they did what they do best....weaponized it! This is now a nice low cost, grid-infrastructure targetting, black-op tool!

Aside #2: Beijing knows EXACTLY what I'm talking about here. So does Los Angeles (to a minor extent).

This coal is then transported by DIESEL BURNING TRUCKS to it's destinations.

Note: this helps maximize the production of more soot which is so vital to the economy.

Meanwhile, ironically, in another arm of the Indian Goberment hydra, sits, more correctly sat (in past tense), the BIGGEST WATCHDOG against environmental pollution known to civilization: (Minister for Sabotage of Development) Minister for Environment, Ms. Jayanti  Natarajan.  She was sort of abruptly "fired"/let-go/re-assigned, post haste, after an electoral defeat for her political party in the national capital, for sitting on the clearances of at least $9 Billion worth of business investment waiting for "her" approval.

Saboteur of Industry Minister of Environment (src:http://www.images99.com/politicians/jayanthi-natarajan-giving-speech/)
Why am I striking out the terms "Saboteur of Industry"? Read this LINK. Also, because she is not in her position anymore! The incumbent "ruling families" of India decided they need to get "their economy" moving this very instant, after presiding over nearly a decade of scams, headlines of kickbacks (business as usual), and paralysis because.....no one knows really. Elections don't seem to have bothered them before....so I can not fathom what happened....and the incestuous Indian Media follow a don't ask don't tell policy on these things!

Back to the Finance Ministry

So what does all this have to do with the Minister of Finance? Back to the story.

The Finance Ministry has long wanted to sell (divest) 10% of Coal India to the public, because... the Finance Ministry is always hard pressed for money, because it always runs a deficit, because it has huge government programs, and because when the economy throws back less revenue due to excess asphyxiation, no doubt, they can always offload a fraction of the ownership of nationalized companies like Coal India....which they still continue to control really, to get their hands on the money......lest the rupee depreciate....and the government will be rewarded with even higher import bills and higher deficits.

The divestment didn't work. Then they tried to offload just 5%. That dint work either. No takers. Because....get this....the LABOR UNIONS of Coal India objected to the government placing a national asset like Coal India in capitalist hands.

Unions in India help Dalal Street ("wall street") Investors

Conventional MBA101 wisdom teaches you there's nothing like the rumblings of a strongly dominant labor union to douse capitalistic share purchase sentiment! YOU'D BE WRONG! It turns out the unions were really looking out for shareholders in this case.

Aside #3: Are these the unions who oversee the extraction of Coal which is largely done laboriously by hand and bucket which is subsequently balanced on their heads and walked out to a bigger bucket? Did they get softer shovels for their efforts? Better shoes? I don't know but I do hope they got something for their agitation.

How did the unions help the shareholders? By letting them onto a better deal, bless them. Having denied the Government and Mr Chidambaram the money from a 5% divestment, which would have amounted to the Finance Ministry pocketing $$1.45 Billion, instead they forced the finance ministry to gain $3 Billion--via a "special" dividend yielding 10% (Rs 29)  (based on today's market value of Rs290 per share)! The percentage dividend would have yielded much more than 10% on CIL's earlier share price when the Government were trying to divest.

To make matters worse, it appears the Finance Ministry had provided forward guidance on this matter at the time of the divestment!!

Quoting from the story in 15 January's Financial  Express:

"The government had instructed the company to pay a special dividend if the company is unable to go ahead with the divestment plan"

 well sure....how are you going to have a successful share placement if you telegraph that your going to GUARANTEE shareholders a whopping >10% dividend RETURN ON INVESTMENT if it fails?!? Because the Finance Ministry NEEDS the money.

The article mentions that CIL has $10Bn in cash on the balance sheet, prior to the dividend, and that the leak of this dividend money may affect CILs capex plans going forward.

GOVERNMENT DOING OTHER  TRICKS FOR MONEY

It appears the quasi insider giveaway (Don't we all wish we knew about these kinds of investments  in advance?) with regards to CIL was a one off as of now, because the other divestments of nationalized companies at present are being placed with other nationalized companies (!) at present via cross shareholding. whatever.....

Maybe robbing coal india's cash balances  is ironically good for the environment!??


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Chris Christie's Denial of Service Attack

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's administration, (Christie is one of the national stars of the Republican Party and one of the early unofficial contenders for higher office of POTUS), was exposed sabotaging taxpayer access to infrastructure, ie. the George Washington Bridge! All for petty political retaliation.

Here is a light hearted review of the story by Jon Stewart:


[Aside: The story of how this came out in the first place should also be followed.  (how exactly did those emails leak? NSA? CIA? Certainly NSA info is available to the present Democratic Administration in DC? Imagine what a future Republican administration will do?) Big Data! ]

Ok so now he's admitted that this really happened in his administration.

Is it criminal?

A brief google search seems to indicate that law enforcement is juuuuuust waking up to the idea. The idea of charges is also very political. Many sophisticated talking heads are clearly reluctant to broach the subject. But that's not surprising to me. The higher up you are....(cliche cliche).

For example, the Christian Science Monitor reports

 "But legal experts and former federal prosecutors doubt whether any specific criminal charges could come from the growing scandal – at least on a federal level. Despite the big political fallout that the scandal may cause – as well as a likely deluge of civil lawsuits – proving any criminal wrongdoing might be a stretch"

To which I think....REALLY??

How many bespectacled geeks are behind bars for interfering with access to websites? In that respect where does willful restriction of taxpayers rights to their physical freedom of movement on public infrastructure stand?

From wikipedia: 
 
"In the US, denial-of-service attacks may be considered a federal crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act with penalties that include years of imprisonment.[37] Many other countries have similar laws"

Odds are, this "scandal" (not "crime") will lead to a few more jokes on the late shows / SNL etc and disappear.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Effective Antibiotics....A LOSING business model for Big Pharma

Big Pharma is always telling the public about their role in saving lives.

Fair enough.

But big pharma must also think about its big shareholders! It takes both, big pharma and big shareholders to save lives!

First, here is a nice interview with 2009 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, who states on the record, that effective antibiotics are of NOT sufficient financial interest to big pharma because you take them and GET BETTER and then you are free from taking medicine!

Cue to the 8:00 minute mark for the straight talk.



"So that's a problem...How do you recover that kind of money...The other problem is... with an antibiotic... you give it to a patient and a week or two later they're often cured! Pharmaceutical companies would prefer something that they have to take the rest of their life.....that's where the money is."

Yet, if big pharma PUSHES the overuse ($$$) of antibiotics, they render their own product obsolete via drug resistance, and again end up lose money.

However they ARE PUSHING ($$$) the overuse of their antibiotics: in meat, in livestock to promote butchery weight, in your toothpaste, in yoghurt and cheeses ("natamycin"), in wine (sulfa/sulfites) even in your soap (triclosan)!!

So we have an interesting paradox / double-speak from sophisticated people:

The mass population is told to avoid abusing antibiotics, and yet the pharma industry quietly encourages the use of triclosan and other antibiotics in soap/toothpaste/animal husbandry etc. in ever more areas. Where is the US-FDA on THAT? It is with the money.

Happy new year.
Cheers.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Incredible! Decoding the Mars Mission Media Coverage

It's Global News. It should be a Hahvahd business school case study: How to market a developing country.

India just launched an observer space craft to Mars called Mangalyaan. (Mangal being the Sanskrit word for Martes in Spanish, ie. Mars).

Interesting thing about this particular space program launch.....the COST was part and parcel of the media coverage everywhere.  That struck me as ODD.  Space programs are crown jewels of the governments that house them in any country.

For example, you're not gonna get discussions about food stamps in America, in the same media footage every time NASA's space shuttle goes up, say.

Yet, as far as I can tell, for the first time in India, there was a minimal "opposition" about whether the launch was affordable. (Funny thing is, where are those elite voices when it's necessary to clean up the garbage on the streets, or dozens of other chronic unsolved problems? In India, few care about boring things like public hygiene standards.)

I think this "opposition" was "by design" by the elite, who clearly excel at sophist PR.

CAN INDIA AFFORD IT?

Imagine! It's a tricky PR ask: you need to advertise

(1) a developing country in great need of foreign exchange,
(2) a country with occasional reputational hiccups facing it's rather successful public outsourcing industry (was CGI's obamacare fiasco a case in point? Not a mention of CGI in the local news in India, which only makes me more suspicious...),
(3) in a global environment where OECD countries are hurting and ever eager to hand you your head if you dare compete with them on price,
(4) and you are tasked to promote it's affordable satellite launch business.

You can't just advertise "Hey, use our launch services...we're inexpensive!", because that only plays into the doubts. No!

Instead you use the "yes the launch is great, BUT can India afford it?" tagline. Brilliant. You can promote the launch and the low price tag and rightfully tout your achievement.

INCREDIBLE INDIA!

It's a lot like the same PR task for the Indian tourism industry. The tourism industry needs to promote India as a travel destination. PR Question: How do you pitch it...exactly...given that some negative images are rather prevalent? How was India your friend asks (when you come back from vacation)? You come up with....."Incredible".

It works.

Now if only those elite Indian PR minds would influence politicians to deliver on it a bit more, all would be happier. But that might be....impossible?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Retail Cartels Part 2

In an earlier post, I shared my experience with "bricks and mortar" cartels.

Recently, I ran into the same price rigging behavior (my term for it...what else could you call it?), online (where it's MUCH easier to implement than bricks and mortar) while engaging with a hotel shopping website.

Last time we compared the cunning use of ever present "security cameras" in bricks and mortar retailers to the "cookie" and "tracking pixels" tools of computerized commerce.

Well look at the screenshots below (I have altered the photos only to preserve privacy details: blanking out locations and dates..., otherwise they are completely authentic results of my encounter with booking.com).

I asked the rather prominent vacations website, booking.com, to price me hotel stays for a week. It came back with the following "best" price for one hotel:



Then, always armed with my skepticism, I left the confines of booking.com and went to another site....got a lower price! Then I returned to booking.com and launched another window and issued the same search and it came back with the following "newer best" price for the same hotel:



WHOA! That's a 20% price swing in 2 minutes! All down to a little skepticism and a few clicks. At this rate, the bills do add up.

Unbelievable. I went back to the first window of my browser session, the one with the higher price, and hit "refresh" in the hopes of letting it get caught up with the new information....NO CAN DO! The price remained the same!

The margins with which these consolidated online shopping cartels sites operate must be stratospheric!

Behind the scenes

Obviously, when i went outside of booking.com, the place (website) I went to must have used tracking cookies from the same syndicate that booking.com subscribed to so that it could, then, as a last resort, offer me an updated price competitive to the new website.

Foreboding: Computers, big data (i call it the "dot com complex") and commerce will prove to be a VERY BAD thing for humanity. Price Discrimination will be the defacto business practice. I'm just waiting for my local supermarket to implement electronic LCD pricing. Then the price on apples will change to the highest possible every chump customer can bear, with the support of ALL the customer's data stored in vast databases which would make even the Stasi blush.

The potential for abuse is rife. The potential for enforcement minimal. Everyday we are giving more and more of our personal information, freely to e-commerce, and the government, in exchange for something close to nothing. But don't worry, the price will be paid in the near future. For now we can enjoy. Hooray!


Friday, September 13, 2013

Natural Selection & Affirmative Action in the Age of Big Data

Everyone has heard of "affirmative action"? It's when university's consider OTHER things besides your academics in considering whether you gain admission to the department or program of study of your choice.

The primary OTHER characteristic is Race.  Naturally, It's a very controversial concept, and the term has enough leeway of interpretation to be just about useless in any case. And Universities have blast through that barrier at full speed.....

But Universities are now digging deep into your facebook and other internet crumbs as a guide into whether you'd be a "successful student" at their institution!

It's all in the interest of better counseling and better marketing, and as usual it's all good for you, of course. (remember that phrase "the road to hell is paved with...")

 So let's say (totally hypothetically) that you're applying to Oxford, or the London School of Economics (I'm focussing on the UK, just because the recent news reports focus on the UK) for study in "Politics, Philosophy, and Economics", or "Political Economy" and Macroeconomics or some such thing. Good stuff. Precursors to high power jobs, those qualifications.

It's not implausible to imagine the admissions committees at these institutions are very proud and earnest (or even explicitly mandated) about maintaining their own institutions "defining characteristics" as well!

Well, thanks to the Dot Com Complex, admissions departments, out of the high minded human tendencies towards voyeurism, will not only consider how well you write and communicate, and your grades, but "how you hang out" or your "chill time" characteristics, homey.

After all, the data is for sale.

All this Big Data is really effecting "natural selection" for the future! It's serious.

THE PERFECT CANDIDATE:  I LUV IT

Big Data having a chilling effect on society? Not ALL society!

In short, here's the prototypical PURRFECT CANDIDATE for ALL THINGS.... ready to fit into any peg:


Ahhhh.....the goodness of innocent youth!

Please teach your children to be as vapid about as many things as possible, but to participate in as many extracurricular sporting activities as possible.

That way.....they'd get past any admissions committee! I luv it.