Sunday, May 16, 2010

April's Fools.

April sucked. I was ill. I stopped moving about. Metals stopped corroding mysteriously which had an unfortunate effect on my workload. The Greeks stuffed me. Apparently giving birth to the Western civilization also gives you the right to destroy it. But in the midst of all the wretchedness I found solace in two things. Cognitive therapy and the newspaper. While I need not elaborate on the former for the time being, I am all too keen to share why I have chosen Schadenfreude as the word of the month. Never before has the newspapers carried such uplifting news which provided the much needed comfort that there are people out there who are having a more terrible year.


The only reason I hate Goldman Sachs is because I don’t work for them yet. One of my ambitions includes working for five evil corporations in my lifetime. I don’t think I have worked for any yet though I don’t know whether the students’ executive committee at IITM counts. GS has had a series of bad press this year. With billions of dollars of bonuses, audacious hiding of Greece’s debts and of course the recent civil suit from the Securities & Exchange Commission, GS is being blamed for everything and anything. Being the most successful bank to come out of the recession unscathed has its pitfalls. Anyone who has browsed through the details of the SEC case would be wonder struck. Let me try and put it in a simple format.

• Hedge fund designs financial instrument designed to fail
• GS sells the instrument to their clients
• Hedge fund bets against the very financial instrument it has created.
• GS doesn’t inform clients that the hedge fund is betting against the system.
• Hedge fund makes 1billion dollars.

The dazzling brilliance of the whole law suit is that according to the shockingly lax regulations, the hedge fund hasn’t done anything illegal. GS’s only fault was not to inform their clients about the position of the hedge fund. This suit has set off a chain reaction of events which has slowly made it clear that investment banks have moved away from their primary duty of transferring capital to where it is required to creating sophisticated gambling systems. I will refrain from turning this into a diatribe against the financial sector and its inability to grasp long term vision. That job has been accomplished exceedingly well by Matt Taibbi here. I don’t recall any description of any organization more brutal than how Mat has described GS.

The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it's everywhere. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.

I always assumed these GS folks to be super-smart but I was disappointed to see that they have left an email trail of their shenanigans which led the senators and media scrambling to crucify them. Fabrice Tourre, whose exploits brought about the SEC suit, was so full of himself after creating the financial instrument that he couldn’t hide his glee in a mail to his girlfriend where he called the deal ‘shitty’ and called his work ‘intellectual masturbation’. If only he had acted upon his feeble conscious attack. On a completely different note, I would love to know if there is a study on how many gifted crooks did themselves in while bragging to women.

Of course the naive among us will assume that this series of law suits is just the beginning of holding the bankers responsible for the recession. These suits are a decently clever approach taken by the Obama administration to force the US senate to push through the financial regulations bill. If anybody is expecting GS to go into a decline, they need to be pinched back to reality. But for now, it’s just great reading the papers about GS executives scurrying to save their skin and seeing Lloyd Blankfien fumble on TV.

Statutory Warning: 140 characters can ruin you.

Lalit Modi. The man who got tweeted out of a multi-billion dollar enterprise built by himself. One has to admit that the whole incident is hilarious if not downright stupid. No matter how clever, suave, well-connected, rich and indispensible one may be, there are two things which can destroy any man in a matter of days. A woman and the ego. I am still struggling to understand where Tharoor erred. Did he break any law by charging a hefty fee for helping out a consortium to bag the deal? I do agree he was incredibly stupid to have left such an obvious paper trail. Just for that he should have been fired. If a minister sucks even at hiding his wealth, then he has no business running the affairs of the nation. Indians have no patience for such incompetence. So what if he has done more for India’s relations with African and Latin American nations than any administration before.

Tehelka has a brilliantly done article about what situation led to the huge fracas. While the article makes insinuations against people as untouchable as Sachin and Sunil Gavaskar without citing concrete sources, it’s a tremendous read. And frankly in such frivolous issues I don’t mind admitting I prefer ‘news’ reports which are more suggestive and scandalous rather than drab and colourless one may encounter in the national newspaper of India.

There are a few interesting lessons we can draw from the event. They are nothing new but this whole row has brought it out more beautifully than other scams have. Power and influence is illusory when you do not have seats in the parliament to back it up. Case in point, Mr Pawar continues to play around with food prices while Mr Modi is looking up the yellow pages for names of lawyers who will exploit him further. Politicians still call the shots in this country, economic liberalization notwithstanding. Modi thought the combined backing of Ambani, Mallya and Wadia would save his skin being oblivious to the fact that unlike the Indian public the industry captains can identify with effortless ease whether an issue is inconsequential and when to choose their fights. Modi had started believing the papers which hailed him as an unconquerable foe who had trounced the home ministry, Subhas Chandra, BCCI, ICC, ECB, Sony. He never realized that at the end of the day the only thing which matters is how much of that famed power could make a difference on the floor of the Parliament.

The Androgynous Swami.

This case was kind of unexpected. When I heard that this Swami who has a thing for cross-dressing, was running what can only be described as a training facility for sexually liberated individuals, near Bangalore, I was very disappointed with myself. I considered this a huge intelligence failure on my behalf and berated all my contacts for having failed to have informed me about the existence of such a guild so near to where I stay. But enough about my discontent.

Let’s be frank. While outwardly all single and a few not-so-single men may have been hypocritically denouncing this sect, they would all have signed on to that infamous ‘contract’ in a heartbeat. The absurdity of the incident stems from the fact that the video was released by a woman who was jealous of Cool Dude Nitya’s proximity to this Tamil actress. Now why would some women vie for the affections of an androgynous Swami is mysterious. I have dealt with this topic at length in my upcoming book ‘Why women never seldom fall for smart and witty men. A true Story’.

I however loved how the newspapers dealt with his eventual arrest in Himachal Pradesh. The headline screamed that the three cameras were found with him!! Oh the horror! Three cameras mind you. How despicable and vile would a man have to be to be found with three cameras? He should be impaled in front of Majestic Bus Stand.
While everyone was trying their best to recover from this sordid act, Nitya came up with the gem of an ironclad defence that he/she is a woman and hence by all sexual impropriety suits filed against him are null and void. If this approach is legal, I shudder to think what my female stalkers may be up to. (Yes, therapy woman, I am talking about you. Leave me alone!)I wonder how the conversation may have gone between Nitya and his lawyer before he sprung this defence on the police.

Lawyer: Hey Nitz, you are screwed man.
Nitya: Hmm.....I agree this is a pickle but I have a cunning plan.
Lawyer: Not again.
Nitya: What if I play the victimized woman card.
Lawyer: But you are not a woman....
Nitya: That’s a mere technicality. I will just announce I am. Call me Nitu from now on. It will help me get into character.

The Eyjafjallajökull Conundrum.

Iceland needs to come closer to the Equator. No one pays much attention to them as they are so far away and then they end up doing silly stuff just to get our attention. First it was bankrupting their national bank and initiating the financial crises in Europe and now there’s this volcano with an identity crisis. After all those Hollywood movies dealing with worldwide apocalypse if there’s anything we have learnt it’s that stuff have to go wrong simultaneously at every corner of the world for things to shut down indefinitely. Also the thing needs to be predicted by a renegade scientist/ ancient civilization. None of these cardinal rules were followed before Eyjafjallajökull went kaput.

Iceland needs to get over the fact that world doesn’t think too much of them. I agree nothing much has happened on that island after Bobby Fischer kicked Spassky’s ass and Ronald Reagan slipped a Mickey in Gorbachev’s drink and made him sign a nuclear disarmament treaty. But is shutting down air traffic all over Europe the best idea you people could come up with? Ands what’s with this consonant fetish? Eyjafjallajökull? Really? Kindly get rid of this consonant diarrhoea if you want the world to take you more seriously. But it was amusing to see how much damage just one volcano, somewhere on the fringes of civilization could do. Very humbling.