Sometimes I just want to write quick-blip reactions to stuff I see out there.
Here are some things that caught my attention on the way back from Mexico City today:
1. Televisa and Bill Gates have announced that they are going to work through his investment arm, Cascade Investment — along with Bain Capital, the Blackstone Group, Carlyle Group, and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. — to bid for Univision. There is probably some serious regulatory requirement that mandates such a disclosure, but on another front, it seems anti-competitive for someone of Bill Gates’ economic weight to publicly say, “I’m here. My team is big. I want your company — all others beware.”
2. I should have bought gold. Gold passed $727 an ounce on Friday. Richard Fisher, who previously ran for the Senate in Texas and then served as Deputy US Trade Representative in the Clinton administration, is now President & CEO of the Federal Reserve Board of Dallas. Two years ago, Fisher told a small group that he was putting a big chunk of his considerable wealth into gold. When a guy who is a regional Fed Board chairman elects to abandon the dollar and other securities for gold, we should
3. I like Richard Falkenrath who had a piece today in the Washington Post celebrating the NSA national phone call data base project. But this irks me:
There are, of course, strict legal limits on the ability of federal agencies such as the NSA to compel the provision of domestic information or to collect it secretly. The USA Today story, however, alleges that three telecommunications companies — AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth — provided it voluntarily. How else could one company (Qwest) decline to provide the information? Since there is no prohibition against federal agencies receiving voluntarily provided business records relating to their responsibilities, it appears that the NSA’s alleged receipt and retention of such information is perfectly legal.
But go check out the Quest story. They felt seriously strong-armed by the government to comply. I would even say “threatened”. The question to ask AT&T, Verizon and Bell South in the inevitable hearings ahead will be how “voluntary” were their actions? How threatened did they feel?
4. Recently, I screened for a group of 200 people the pre-release of
‘Our Brand is Crisis” which looks into the political terrain in Bolivia preceding the rise of Evo Morales. There were a lot of anti-globalist Morales supporters there, and I would imagine that most of them would applaud Morales’s May 1st announcement that he would nationalize its gas sector and offer oil firms six months to renegotiate their contracts.
But Morales has gone further and declared that Bolivia may not compensate firms for the assets they hold in Bolivia if nationalized. Brazil is outraged — particularly if Brazil’s Petrobras, the largest foreign investor in Brazil, is not compensated.
Some bad stuff is unfolding in Latin America, and I don’t have any sense that Americans are paying much attention. My New America Foundation colleague, Jim Pinkerton agrees.
— Steve Clemons