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Commentary: Geopolitical frisson

By ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE, UPI Editor at Large   |   Nov. 8, 2013 at 7:20 AM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- "Meltdown: The End of the Age of Greed" was the riveting story of how the 2008-09 financial crisis, manipulated by get-rich-quick financial wheeler-dealers, brought the global economy to its knees and triggered explosions that came close to plunging the United States into the worst economic plight since the 1930s.

Author Paul Mason, the economics editor of the BBC's "Newsnight," forecast in 2009 that the shock of this global crisis would lead to the kind of regulatory reforms that would protect the world's economies from a recurrence of a near crash.

It didn't. And now we are once again headed for the precipice. High executive pay still reaches dizzying heights and the gap between rich and poor keeps widening.

In 2012, Oracle's Lawrence J. Ellison was paid $96.2 million, far more than his opposite numbers at Google and Microsoft. Union-inspired pressure reduced this to $78.4 million this year.

Ellison is a billionaire chief executive officer who also owns 25 percent of the company. Forbes says he's worth $41 billion. Why he needs a gargantuan salary on top of this is seen by some detractors as unadulterated greed.

Oracle concedes that the bulk of its executive compensation goes to its top executives. The New York Times' Steven M. Davidoff reported two other Oracle executives made $40 million each -- in one year.

Twitter -- the social media giant that reduces human grunts and groans to 140 characters each -- was the star of this year's 190 public offerings. Twitter's shares jumped from $17 to $25 – enough to raise $2 billion.

The anything-goes boom that led to the 2008-09 crash is now in its busiest week of 2013, back to its busiest month since October 2007.

Not all social media are on fast forward; just forward.

The successor to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a "progressive" or left-wing Democrat. Bill de Blasio spent his honeymoon in Cuba and worked for the Sandinista Communist regime in Nicaragua. He quit the Sandinistas when he discovered they were using torture to extract confessions of political wrongdoing.

His wife, Chirlane McCray, a black poet, speech writer for her husband and former lesbian, will play a key role, says de Blasio, in selecting the most powerful members of his administration. In effect, she will be deputy mayor without the title. They will screen candidates for his administration "together," he explained.

De Blasio, who calls himself "a progressive," described his administration's plans to City Hall media as "a sacred mission."

The new mayor of New York has forgotten the history of the Cold War. The label "progressive" was co-opted by the Soviet propaganda apparatus and pinned on anyone who gave the Kremlin the benefit of the doubt about its "peaceful" intentions.

At a joint media appearance, the frayed-suited mayor-elect contrasted sharply with the impeccably attired exiting Bloomberg. To avoid too close an examination of his immediate entourage, de Blasio appeared alone with Bloomberg.

He gave his first news conference since he won 73 percent of the vote at the headquarters of a social services outfit close to Manhattan's Union Square, his liberal credentials burnished whenever possible.

At week's end, de Blasio and McCray were off to Puerto Rico to address the annual conference of New York's Latino lawmakers.

New York City's new deal inspired cartoonist Matt Davies to depict a crane operator named "New York City 2013" muttering to himself "'bout time we put the old one back" as he removed and lifted the tablet from Lady Liberty's left hand which read: "Give me your well-rested hedge fund managers, Russian billionaires and construction magnates yearning to maximize profits." The old one reads "July IV MDCCLXXVI" -- July 4, 1776 -- the date of America's independence.

The excesses of Wall Street and the growing wealthy/poor divide have made a mighty contribution to New York's big swing to the left. Commented Investor's Business Daily online, "You'd think the era of the Guardian Angels, Fort Apache and rats on the West side and bedbugs uptown would be the last things New Yorkers would want to revisit. But voting in lefty Bill de Blasio suggests otherwise."

INVESTORS.com writes: "A socialist from way out in left field -- a political pilgrim to the Sandinistas' Nicaragua, the Soviet Union and Castro's Cuba -- isn't typically the sort of candidate who wins the mayor's office in New York.

"Voters discontent with the glossy, indifferent corporatism of predecessor Michael Bloomberg, whose idea of keeping in touch with ordinary people was to steal their salt shakers in restaurants, while neglecting the city's critical needs, such as contingency plans and protective defenses against tsunamis."

As a result, says the editorial, "City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, probably the most unfit person ever to make it to Gracie Mansion, wins by a 49-point margin ...

"His Italian name is of his own making and his African-American wife and children have been paraded as political props," it says under the headline, "Socialist Bill de Blasio's Mayoral Win Will Take New York Back To The 1970s."

It won't do that. The Soviet Union is dead and the U.S. Communist Party, still alive, no longer answers to his master's voice. But like the Great Depression, our current version of democratic capitalism is deepening a great divide that threatens democracy itself.

As fears take hold, gold holds sway.

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