Musings on a Saturday Flight


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 listen have listened.
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.

More later.
— Steve Clemons


26 comments on “Musings on a Saturday Flight

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  7. justme says:

    Chavez is dangerous — but he’s aiming at our government, not the people. I would encourage anyone curious about Chavez to view the film “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”. (
    I think the strategy of a large group of countries is to change the way money works. Remove the USD as the reserve currency of the world, and the perverted interests that structure serves. If that happens, I think it might not only benefit the world, but the majority of Americans as well.
    I did my research back in 2003 and came to the same conclusion as Mr Fisher. I put 20% of my assets in gold. The rest in energy, commodities, and foreign currencies. Not a bad strategy.


  8. James Monroe says:

    Mr. Clemons, your defense of American imperial domination of Latin America is touching. And yes you’re right, those little peasants should NEVER gain control of their own resources! They must learn that the United States is The Decider when it comes to how the natural resources they’re standing on is to be used. Morales better watch out otherwise we might have to “democratize” his shitty little country and “liberate” its natural gas reserves.
    Monroe Doctrine 2006, biyatch. westside.


  9. the exile says:

    I just love the irony that the main opponent of the Bolivian gas nationalization is Petrobras, which was born in the early 1950s as a STATE monopoly when Getulio Vargas nationalized the foreign oil companies working in Brazil.


  10. Mona Lyne says:

    This guy cannot know much about Latin America. The idea that Bachelet in Chile is anti-capitalist and determined to reverse globalization is completely ridiculous. Anyone who has the slightest knowledge of LA knows this is silly. Although it is not quite as obvious in the case of Chile, the same can be said of Lula in Brazil or the likely winner of the Mexican elections this year from the PRD. Lula’s govt in Brazil has maintained a macroeconomic policy and a trade policy even more liberal than his predecessor, who was supposedly center right. Please!!!!!!!!


  11. gail says:

    I don’t think that many of you understand that the whole world is conspiring to cut America down to size; they are all against us! And we must defend ourselves whether it be against terrorists, communists, socialists, liberals, anti-captialists, enviromentalists (which is a disguise for all the beforementioned), pagans, isalmofacists, free-lovers, rainbow coalition, etc., etc., etc. They are all constantly trying to decay the American way of life, and Pinkerton is in the forefront of those protecting American values. God Bless America!


  12. Dirk says:

    Where to start…
    Gee Steve, a lot of us are keenly aware of what is going on in S. America (or America as they prefer to call it), including the developments in Venezuela, Bolivia and even the Sheraton Hotel in Mexico City.
    I sincerely hope that Pinkerton doesn’t represent the prevalent views at New America. Most of the changes occuring in S. America are positive and represent a sort of declaration of independence to the Monroe doctrine.
    It may come as news to Pinkerton, but Brazil has recently started enriching its own “yellowcake” rather than ship it to Europe for that purpose.


  13. Nell says:

    one of these days a Latin country will emerge as a serious military power, thus ending America’s fortuitous two-century-long monopoly of force in this hemisphere.
    Yeah, that’d be tragic for the hemisphere, because our domination has had such a positive impact.
    Where to start with this kind of fatuity? It requires that we all just pretend that a century of military, economic, and political intervention on behalf of U.S. corporations and local elites never happened. The many thousands of people disappeared, slaughtered, imprisoned and tortured… “fortuitous” indeed. And they’re dwarfed by the millions just plain robbed — doomed to grinding poverty in a rigged system.
    To the Pinkertons of the world, people everywhere else are just not quite as real, as fully human, as U.S. citizens. Thus the only grounds for paying the region any mind at all are(bogus) national security concerns.
    If Pinkerton is typical of New America Foundation thinking, there’s nothing New about the America you all are envisioning. Same old empire.


  14. Farinata X says:

    I like and respect you, Steve, but I must differ with you. Some of the most encouraging developments to occur anywhere on the planet lately are those taking place in Latin America. Bravo Evo!


  15. blog101 says:

    Regarding the price of gold. Yes, you should have bought a year ago. No, you shouldn’t buy now, as the price is about to peak.


  16. bakho says:

    Does anyone seriously think that the Bush administration would collect all this information and NOT use it for poltical purposes?
    Has Bush been so secretive, reluctant to disclose and resistant to oversight because he used this information in his campaign against John Kerry?
    Where is the proof to the contrary? The word of a president that Americans no longer trust is not good enough.


  17. Aunt Deb says:

    As one of those attending the preview of “Our Brand Is Crisis”, I just want to say I was not so much pro-Morales as I was anti-Carville, Greenberg, et al spinning the shit out the political and economic problems facing Bolivians in an effort to ‘earn’ their consultancy fees from their candidate/client. For all the calculatedness of the consultants — and of the filmmaker — there was a stunning amount of naivete that seemed to derive from something fundamentally vapid in the way these Americans view their right to be morally superior.
    Many Americans like to think that their willingness to suspend the work of judgement is simply the necessary foundation for the pragmatism that produces results. But political consultants can’t pretend that they haven’t made a judgement, that they are a sort of net neutral element in the situation.
    Regarding the presumed dangers awaiting us in South America, perhaps we should not be so ignorant of the deliberate and covert meddling we have done and continue to do there. And I include the work of American political consultants in this category.


  18. profmarcus says:

    supporting morales does not automatically equate with anti-globalism… morales could be the first opportunity the impoverished people of bolivia have had to re-assert control over their own country and their own resources in the several centuries that they have been mercilessly exploited by foreign interests… (i do not count any previous nationalization efforts for the simple reason that they were undertaken principally to enrich the local oligarchs at the expense of the vast bulk of the population…)
    read this nyt editorial from 6 may…
    i say “could be” because the jury is still out… morales is feeling his way… so far, he has stated bolivia will not impede the profitability of the operators who choose to stay… that may change if the coterie of foreign “economic hit men” shadowing his every step manage to have their wicked way with him…
    i believe that morales believes that he is sending a strong signal that the rape and pillage of his country’s sovereign resources must end… this is a signal that deserves to be paid attention to by the rest of the world, particularly those countries bound and determined to extract the last drop of blood from the emaciated carcasses of their client nations (equatorial guinea, name-your-middle-east country, the congo, half of the ” ‘stans,” etc…
    i’m rooting for evo…


  19. Marica says:

    “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.”
    Bad for whom? The tried policy used in South America is now being tried on the rest of the world. How calmly people talk about overthrowing governments, bombing, even nuking–looking at the past that is just the way we do things. Soprano like–this is business.


  20. vachon says:

    Good grief. Any day now I expect to be told that boogabooga! Monaco has been training (really well dressed) assassins.


  21. Ducktape says:

    Of course we’re not paying any attention, Steve. No one has yet told us that the boogeyman we’re supposed to be afraid of is in Latin America, unless he’s trying to sneak across the border to take a job cleaning WalMart.
    You mean there’s something else?


  22. elementary teacher says:

    In January, nominee Hayden appeared before the National Press Club in D.C. and, while emoting some degree of zeal about his knowledge of the Fourth Amendment in response to a reporter’s question, appeared to be patently unfamiliar with actual “probable cause” language contained therein. Should Hayden be chosen, as you indicated, to “restore morale” in the CIA? I’m trying to follow your logic, especially given the climate where politicians and security services examine their own work in secret and subsequently find themselves not to blame — all the while accessing the private phone call data bases of U.S. citizens.
    Fourth Amendment:
    “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. ”


  23. Patience says:

    It seems from the second round of reporting that the phone companies didn’t provide the data totally voluntarily but rather some money changed hands.


  24. S Brennan says:

    The NSA national phone call data base project makes sense when you view in this light:
    The Modern Republican Party is a bunch of snooping blackmailers, their policies run against public opinion…so, in order to enact them they smear/skewer everybody that gets in their way.
    Here’s some examples from recent history, ‘cuse me if I miss somebody:
    Valerie Plame,
    Mr Nacchio,
    Mr Rice,
    Mary McCarthy,
    Rep. Murtha,
    John Kerry,
    Bob Kerry…
    Modern Republicans think everybody plays dirty…because they do…here’s an example:
    May 12, 2006 — The former prosecutor who succeeded Independent Counsel Ken Starr in the probe of the Clintons’ failed Whitewater real estate investment that ended by probing his sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky has been charged with stalking an ex-girlfriend, a law enforcement official said.
    Robert Ray surrendered to cops last night after Manhattan resident Tracy Loughlin, 40, filed a complaint.
    “She tried to end it four months ago, but he kept calling her, sending her e-mails and showing up at places he knew she would be,” the official said.
    Ray, 46, was charged with fourth-degree stalking, given a desk-appearance ticket and freed. Ray is now in private practice and lives in Long Branch, N.J.


  25. John says:

    Sadly your chum Mr. Pinkerton is deeply entrenched in the scare the kids meme, OMG ‘they’ are going to threaten ‘us’ with nukes in the future when the exceedingly harsh reality out there is that ‘we’ are threatening everyone else with nukes now. And ‘they’ are taking ‘our’ assets? He must be joking. How does he imagine ‘we’ earned those assets? Through the equivalent work of a Bolivian peasant?
    If only for perspective, Steve, split this post into #s 1 through 3 and separate #4 and then tell us what you really think.


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