Saturday, August 30, 2008

Chinese Democracy

Black and White Cat is a blog that writes about China from an insider's perspective. (btw, found this via Forbes ===>Reporting From The '1984' Beijing Olympics by Paul Maidment)

Charles McGrath wrote a story for the New York Times that the Beijing Evening News translated. Um, ruthlessly edited. *cough* censored *cough*. B&W cat translated it back to english, so we can examine how the chinese news service eliminated anything even slightly negative and edited all the nuances out. It reads like propaganda now, IMHO.

===>Full text at Black and White Cat

The Chinese aren't alone in this. Everyone does it, I know, Last Friday I was editing an article while a reporter was present (not her article) and I could see her wincing wile I wrote over things, deleted others, switched paragraph order. Ya know, edited. This was an agency text so I couldn't call the reported and ask him/her to clarify something. What were you trying to say when you wrote unexpectedly modestly plummet?

Aaand it's a translation. Another area I dabble in, and wracking my brains out for the exact turn of phrase that sounds more professional without losing the essence, thinking, am I pouring my opinions into this? Am I interpreting too much?

Even so, it's just a reminder that freedom of the press is not a fact in China. And in many places too.

Did you know, the Singapore government claims that it does too respect freedom of the press. But it has a hand, and it discourages community participation. It wants a press that supports capitalism and free trade, but not citizen involvement or participation.

A lot of censorship is self censorship. We cover flashy items, we eschew analysis in favor of a catchy headline, and ignore community issues.

But back to the point, Madiment pointed out that editing like this explains a bit why the Chinese, according to a Pew survey in June, believe that the world thinks better of them than the rest of the world really does. (see ==>A Spectacular Misunderstanding, also by Maidment)

And when they're confronted with that reality, that your country isn't beloved byt he world and not everyone thinks you're A OK, that's when shock and ugliness ensues. Accusations that the rest of the world willfully misunderstands them, characterizes them in black and white.

Well, I'm Mexican, I'm used the the U.S. press and their broad strokes. Yes, I've crossed them off as xenophobic, ignorant, out for a quick headline, etc. Yet they do tell the truth sometimes. And truth stings.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ok, so he's the annointed one now. We are on track, set to go. Don't choke. Please, U.S., don't fuck this up.

I keep thinking, shiiit, they're gonna get all resentful that he's like the prom king and too cold and pragmatic and they're gonna shun him! They need to keep in mind that of the options they have, he's the best man for the job. They need a pragmatist, not a beer buddy!

Although that kind of reaction is more likely to happen in Mexico, not in the US where the American dream is alive and well and that's why people don't pick on and resent the rich or the elite so much, since they live in hope that they too, will be one of them, some day.

Still, I'm not totally sure it can't happen. Anything can happen. Karl Rove got George W. Bush elected. Twice.

The so called American people had an earnest, dorky pol in Al Gore, and they chose Goober. Never mind Florida, 'cause the margin had to be really slim in the first place for that to have happened. So now they have this smart guy from a very different background, and people are in love with him. And I'm hoping the love affair will last.

He's not really a prom king ya know, not with a middle name like Hussein and a free spirited mother that sometimes went on food stamps. Don't be fooled, he may be charming but he didn't lead a charmed life. Sure, things are "easier" for Obama than for other politicos, but he still had to fight to get there.

Does this sound like incoherent ranting? I'm sorry, I just need my morning coffee, and I'm using this poor blog to vent, since most of the subjects du jour can't be published right now. They are embargoed, so to speak. But I'll find a way around it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

When the important things get buried under urgent stuff

==>US set to adopt IFRS rules

This is a small item, no big headlines. It's a bit of legislation about accounting practices, quite boring. But the repercussions, I believe, are important.

US companies are set to switch to international accounting rules in a move that will, for the first time, see all the world's most important listed groups reporting according to the same set of standards.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday proposed a "roadmap" to manage the migration of US companies from its rules to the international ones. The plans are open to comment for 60 days.

More than 100 countries use, or are adopting, International Financial Reporting Standards, including all 27 European Union members as well as China, Japan, Canada and India. US GAAP, the accounting lingua franca until the sudden rise of IFRS, is the last significant standard to be switched.

Under the SEC's plans, US groups are likely to adopt IFRS in 2014 providing certain conditions are met, a decision that will be taken in 2011. Some companies may be allowed to adopt IFRS sooner.

What does this mean? Financial statements are a labyrinth where accountants, tax attorneys and the like can hide their bosses' pecadilloes and misdemeanors. The situation is even worse when you're comparing companies accross countries, since everyone has their own accounting standards.

Case in point: the WSJ recently called out Cemex for it's debt management. According to the Journal, Cemex might be in trouble not because of the Venezuelan expropriation, but because they are heavily leveraged and demand is declining.

==>Cemex's Cement Shoes
But investors should be more worried by the Mexican company's large, complex and, some fear, overly engineered debt. This exposes shareholders to risks associated with things like movements in the Japanese yen and changes in Cemex's own share price.

The article also points out that the company's 17.6 billion dollar debt- mostly acquired when they purchased Rinker- doesn't include about 4 billion that are considered capital assets in México, but instead are liabilities under US GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles).

This is all very boring to most of you, I know. Only very geeky people get excited about accounting rules. The bottom line is, having everyone (or more companies at least) follow the same rules when counting their chickens means less room for interpretation and subterfuge. Less room for bubbles and meltdowns, less Enrons. And while this may not be stop all presses kind of item, in the long run, I think it's an important move in the right direction.

Monday, August 25, 2008

What's going to happen when Obama wins the election? Ok, ok, if he wins the election.

This isn't about his capacity to govern etc, I'm just wondering about the media aspect of it all. I mean, will they phase out his Twitter updates? The presidency is not a West Wing episode. It's not all glamour, and some national security issues can't really be discussed over Web 2.0, can they?

Maybe his fans know that, and I'm subestimating them. Although they shouldn't be called fans in that case. And therein lies a problem.

First of all, there's the candidate / elected official transition. Vicente Fox was a good candidate but not such a good president. And people expected miracles and didn't lift a finger, etc... But now this is a very mediatic (is that a word?) candidate, one who's in touch, so to speak, with his constituents or whatever, through the web. And I'm wondering if all this closeness will continue once in office.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

So yeah, um, we removed the dirty pic. It wasn't pervy or anything, but apparently anyone and everyone who googled chingada, chingar, chingan and other derivatives of the word, arrived here. And I didn't even tag it, so what the hell? But, as R. just pointed out, removing the pic might not deter those would be searchers since I am still including the word in this post. We'll see.

So, on a totally unrelated topic, I'm an MBA now. Here's to late nights, to finding out I am a good student only if I like the subject, and to finding out that even if I don't like the subject I can still scrape by (albeit not as happily). Here's to my parents, and my teachers, and my advisor. To saying goodbye to Excel spreadsheets. And adios, McKinsey case studies! Good riddance.

Here's to beer, and singing the Pet Shop Boys really loud on a Tuesday night. Here's to my teammate Wendy who's in friggin' China and still manages to be saner and more on the ball and more communicative than other teamsters residing in good ol' Monterrey. I promise I'll visit you one of these days!

So, I'm not switching jobs. I like my current one just fine, thank you very much. I like to write. I'm not very keen on working for investment bankers. Or being one, for that matter.

I also like the fact that I am getting an inmense amount of time back. What will I do with it? I dunno, sleep maybe? Gardening, running, biking, drinking, cooking, reading, watching movies, writing (or attempt to) screenplays, the list is endless. Some things I never stopped doing, but they were scaled down some. Sleeping, for example.

Anyhooo, I am just glad to be done with the whole thing. Even at work, I'm no longer writing about venture capital funds, and we're back to agribusiness. Slaughterhouses. Yeah, so. I actually like the subject, although I predict I won't be eating beef the next couple weeks. Or months.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

- Douglas Adams

Well, I don't. It seems my procrastinating ways have caught up with me, or I'm simply overextended. I have dreamed that Imelda Lopez called saying I couldn't graduate 'cause I missed a test. A test I had never known about. As I finish up the infernal projects due on each subject I can feel my back unkinking a bit, but then it kinks right back up when I see all that is still due on something else. A translation that is pending, some paper I have to notarize, (notaries aren't the same thing in the U.S. and Mexico. A Mexican notario can marry people and whatnot, and they have the strictest schedule of any bureaucrat.)....

Sorry to complain so much, I'm really not a deadbeat. I'm not!

I have to get back to work now, 'cause aside from all this I also happen to have a job, the one where they actually pay me instead of the other way around, trolling for news which is scarce right now since everyone has olympic fever and they can't be bothered to care except for the same tired old rumors on chrysler and fannie & freddie.

There is minimal trading on the nymex, you can tell they're not paying much attention when the biggest news hardly causes a ripple and then everyone goes berserk right before closing time. It goes up, down, sideways with barely three transactions, since there aren't any clear trends.

This is when you see that the traders are really just a bunch of little boys, sheep really, trying to see who has the biggest stick, (or prove who has the biggest cojones if you want to be all freudian), and if one gets excited then they all do and they start jumping up and down...

I mean, whenever we say, oil went up today because of this and this, or the NY Stock market lost ground today because of blah blah... we don't really know that. Besides, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is really not a good barometer, it can only gauge manufacturing industries really, and it's price weighed instead of market cap weighed, so smaller companies influence it more than firms like GE which is a behemoth and it only has 30 stocks.....

Well, I have some translations due also, so I can work on that and stop moaning.

Quote(s) of the Day:

When I was a little boy, they called me a liar, but now that I am grown up, they call me a writer.

-Isaac Bashevis Singer

I don't care how eloquent your phrasing. Unless you're a storyteller, you're not a writer.

-also by IBS, although I've only found this on Orangette's blog