Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Time to Cleanse Corrupt FIFA

“We’re struck by just how long this went on for and how it touched nearly every part of what FIFA did,...It just seemed to permeate every element of the federation and was just their way of doing business. It seems like this corruption was institutionalized.”

-- Law enforcement official, New York Times

New Attorney General Loretta Lynch is having a good start - she is taking on 'one of the most powerful but equally corrupt Sports Organizations' in the world - FIFA. FIFA before Blatter and even now has been an utterly corrupt organization is a common knowledge. Bosses like Blatter play 'racial politics' to rouse African, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Asian soccer federations whenever European Federation and USA attempt to bring issues of corrupt practices. But in awarding FIFA cup to Qatar and Russia; FIFA transgressed all inhibitions about corrupt practices. This must stop.

It may sound strange, but what is needed is President Barack Obama stands firmly, publically, behind his Attorney General in her pursuit of FIFA corruption case. President Obama needs to bring all the might of his office behind this investigation and expose the sordid and ugly world of global soccer. He needs to give an example of how USA cleaned corruption in Baseball and exhort the global community to stand up to the task of cleansing the dirt of FIFA corruption. It is he, the first black President of USA, who is in the best position to call the bluff of rascals of the world like FIFA chief Blatter who want to hide behind 'charges of racism' in covering his own greed and corrupt ways.

If at all 'politics is to be for good'; now is the occasion for President Obama. By lending force of his administration, he will demonstrate to Americans at large that he cares about cleansing the mess far apart from America's shores. Latino community in USA is the natural supporter of global soccer, they would be delighted to see their commander-in-chief not shying away in taking on all powerful 'pope of football'. As many have observed, 1 in 6 Americans is foreign born; that is a fertile ground for fans who would care about the transparency in global sport like soccer. No better way than to connect and nurture existing bonds with this population apart from showing 'where you stand' in the business of global soccer.

It may seem that the corrupt Blatter is all but inevitable to become FIFA boss in coming elections. But if President Obama were to pick up this fight, he might find willing partners in unexpected quarters. How in the world Chinese Boss Xi Jinping would oppose fighting 'corruption' when he himself is on a crusade against corruption in his home? How can Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff dare to go against the fight of 'corruption' when her second term is completely bogged down by the engulfing scandale of Petrobras? (In spite of 7-1 humiliating loss to Germany in 2014 FIFA World Cup at home; where Brazil goes, the world Soccer goes there.) Sure, Czar Putin would not like all this; but then it is all the more reason to pick up this fight which can drive a wedge between Russia and China.

I have no idea whether Obama White House will show the 'dexterity' in using a perfect occasion delivered by her Attorney General to progress further the fight against global corruption. But the case for doing so is strong. If Obama Administration undertakes that, it will be a service to America, and more importantly, to a sport which has unique global following.

Update - It is true that vast majority of FIFA members want embattled chief Blatter to continue. No surprise here since many of those countries are used to corrupt ways with minimal to non-existent tradition of democracy or internal transparency. But what big countries of Europe, USA, Brazil and China, Japan, South Korea can do is exert the power of 'market' and 'money'. It is these big countries and their markets which sustain huge flow of money into FIFA. You take away that, FIFA coffers become empty and then it does not matter how many Blatters are occupying FIFA executive committee's at that point. As English Soccer Player Gary Lineker says, UEFA and other countries opposed to Blatter should walk away from FIFA. That will force rest of FIFA members to come to senses and start participating the cleansing process. FIFA cannot be UN Human Rights Commission where corrupt and dictators would lecture USA and successful Democracies about Human Rights. Even there USA threatened to walk way. Walking away from FIFA will not be hard at all. A federation and Cup of entire European countries, Brazil, China, Japan, USA, Canada, Australia and many other countries would not be a bad cup at all.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Obama Pacific Trade Deal

Paul Krugman is right to charge Obama Administration that the new Pacific Trade Deal would:
- give a pass to banks and
- allow big corporations to hold sway on trade potential at the cost of jobs as well as upholding of phony Intellectual Property rights.

But he does not mention the strategic point of 'containing China' by engaging with rest of Pacific Rim nations. That is one of the core motives of pursuing this trade deal. Equally, Obama Administration is right to argue that this deal is a chance to enforce appropriate Labor conditions in countries like Vietnam. 

It is all right that Elizabeth Warren's of the world would make lot of noise. But Obama Administration must continue this path of liberalized trade, that is the only way to keep  American Economy competitive while plucking along the strategic goal of containing China. 

Friday, May 08, 2015

United Kingdom - Hangs on for Unity

The disastrous outcome in the UK election would have been Labor Party getting maximum seats but needing to get support of SNP for majority. What that would have brought in is desperation of PM Ed Miliband in keeing SNP Boss Nicola Sturgeon happy at the cost of trading 'unity' of UK. That is because what is not clear is whether SNP is for preserving UK or creating a free Scotland at any cost; including breaking Queen's Kingdom. So far all pointers are in the direction of breaking United Kingdom - that is what seems to be the end goal of SNP. "If the referendum failed, then let us try the Westminster route"; that seems to be the SNP strategy here. With Labor government, Ed Miliband would have meekly participated in games of one Nicola in breaking UK. With Cameroon's Tory securing the majority, this bad outcome is avoided and that is the significance of these results.

What UK PM David Cameroon needs to do is to expose the folly of breaking the current UK. He better listen to Boris Johnson in moving UK more along federal structure rather than the current untenable situation of SNP having its say on 85% English residents via their 56 strong MP cohort in UK Parliament while SNP getting complete powers in running their own affairs in Scotland

There are two more areas where Tory PM David Cameroon needs to 'thread the needle':
- without losing economic benefits of being a part of EU, he needs to establish firmly the centrality of Westminster sovereignty over EU (read German) bureaucracy operating from Brussels; and
- give up the wrong headed fetish of 'austerity' as championed by Finance Minister Osborne. 

Only by addressing these two core problems, David Cameroon would get the necessary political space to strengthen the federal structure of UK to keep it intact. Tory victory in 2015 has presented him with an opportunity to precisely achieve this historic task - keep the 'united' of United Kingdom.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Shut Down Clinton Foundation

The basic business model of any foundation undertaking charitable work is, the patriarch makes lots of money in legal manners and in a good old tradition of 'giving back to society' creates the corpus fund to give away money to actual groups and people who undertake the hard task of charitable work. The patriarch puts right people at the helm of the foundation and then puts in process, tradition in place so as it continues to function well, continues to adhere to it's original goals.

Clinton Foundation does not adhere to this traditional business model. First of all, Bill or Hillary didn't make any multi-millions to give away in any noticeable manner. Clintons are not Gates Family of Microsoft. So then what is the source of funds at Clinton Foundation? Bill's 'connections and network' all over the world developed as American President. However, there is a very fine line between 'sleaze, corruption' and 'networking' when another of your family member is seeking the highest elected office of the land. 

Bill Clinton could have opted to a model where he rubs his 'start dust' to raise money for many, many other competent and qualified non-profit organizations undertaking great work. Why did he opt for spending all of his foundation money in-house? Gaining competence in undertaking volunteer work is not easy, it takes years of dedicated expert involvement and such operations are expected to be separate from fund raising. No wonder, many donors are noticing sub-optimal ways of Clinton Foundation.

Once you cross the line of no-spending in-house and just using Clinton Foundation as fund raising org, one immediately realizes for that you do not need a foundation. Bill Clinton can always give a speech to raise money for a worthy cause. Given that Hillary Clinton is seeking Oval Office, the prudent course for Clinton Family is to shut down the foundation. If Hillary wins the election, she will get an opportunity to make the difference in the world much beyond what Clinton Foundation would do in its lifetime. Then why not make the seeking of this highest office 'clean, corruption-free and with legitimacy'? The specter of Feds coming after Clinton Foundation and shutting it down due to corruption / non-transparency while Hillary is in Oval Office; that will be a political disaster sapping all the political capital of President Hillary Clinton. Remember, when Bill Clinton was President; there was no Clinton Foundation. There is enough of baggage always there with Clintons, she would not need one more albatross of Clinton Foundation to sag her political energy.

You may ask, what about then Chelsea Clinton? What about her? Monies flowing to Clinton Foundation are not of her making. May be it will not be a bad idea for her to start a business or to make a corporate career to rake in millions first and then she can worry about giving those to charities. And if she is all driven by dedicating her life to volunteering and charitable work; then great, she can pick from 'n' number of other charitable trusts around the world to undertake this noble work. It does not have to be this Clinton Foundation nor Clinton Foundation as a lame and essentially illegitimate vehicle for 'good acts towards to humanity' in an attempt to mimic Royalty of Great Britain as the 'family in the business of doing good all over the world'.  

You really marvel at what a 'sleaze machine' Bill Clinton has created in his post-presidency years. Apart from hobnobbing global leaders and celebrities - Davos style - it is hard to note any high impact work done. We know that just getting global leaders together and seeping tea together, nothing much consequential happens. Global leaders respond only when their respective politics generate enough pressure to act. Bill Clinton should know it - how much did he care about 'kumbaya talks' with other world leaders when he was in the Oval Office? He allowed Rwanda Genocide and then regretted in his post-presidency years. What lack of new 'idea' prevented Bill Clinton from intervening in Rwanda Genocide? There was not any lack of new ideas, old ideas like stopping genocide by force were perfectly actionable - there was no enough domestic political pressure to intervene and Bill Clinton allowed thousands to get massacred. 

The world will not miss anything if Clinton Global Initiative and Clinton Foundation wind down. But the world would miss a lot in an embattled presidency of Hillary Clinton if she wins the Oval Office and the mess of Clinton Foundation pulls her down. Continued existence of Clinton Foundation is simply manifestation of a flagrant absence of basic political decency on part of Clinton Family.

(Republicans are not going to demand winding down Clinton Foundation. For them it is a never ending source of political troubles to their principle political opponent; a classic advantage not to be squandered in a competitive electoral politics.)