Windows on the World of Raymond Plank
Founder, Apache Corp
 
Vol. 2011 No. 1
 
 

EGYPT

 

About to have released the first 2011 issue, the current Egyptian revolution and developments capture headlines and deep concerns of those of us concerned with the consequences.

 

I have not met with Hosni Mubarak or his spouse, Suzanne, or son, Gamal, since my retirement two years ago. I had come to know President Mubarak well for an American over the prior decade, and worked directly with his wife Suzanne, First Lady to the Head of State, to implement her dedicated passion to girls’ education by the construction of 203 one-room schools for girls under the heading “Springboard for Girls’ Education,” where at one point 7000 eager and intense youth sought to advance themselves.  

 

Their son, Gamal Mubarak also became a friend with whom I related closely in both Cairo, Washington, and Houston on numerous occasions. He had received excellent grounding to succeed his father in office.  This was also my practice with Hosni Mubarak, both in Egypt and in the U.S. cities noted above, to which one can add Chicago at an occasion sponsored by then co-heads of Goldman Sachs; Paulson and Corsine.  I cover the latter in greater depth in my memoir, now in preparation.

 

I am not going to reference contacts with members of U.S. government, or members of Mubarak’s cabinet, for reasons which may be apparent, nor comment on able Apache personnel both previously and presently in Egypt.

 

With the above as background, I would, however, note the following. The Mubaraks have, in my opinion, been the “best thing going” for the Egyptian people in modern history, caring for their people while also putting up with much chaff from the Unites States’ power figures, who continue to attempt to guide the world.

 

Egypt has long been handicapped by income disparity between the undereducated and underemployed citizens. This problem has largely been caused by the fact that Egypt has relatively few significant private sector employers, with the vast majority employed not in the private sector but by government – at compensation levels below the living wages paid by the government in an era of rapidly rising costs of living.

Mubarak himself has been a longtime ally of the United States, stemming back at least as far as Khadafy, Libya’s dictator, who was extending his power throughout the oil rich Middle East, and was roughed up by the U.S. during the Presidency of Ronald Reagan (with valid reason). Hosni Mubarak is better known for his role of seeking negotiations and peace between Yasser Arafat, militant Islamic leader with a big pistol, and Israel - Mubarak taking much heat among militant Muslims and Palestinians in his role of attempting conciliation between Israel and Muslim Jihadists.

 

Although Yasser Arafat died presumably poor, he was reported to have left his spouse rich, at the expense of Palestine.  While three consecutive assassinations preceded Hosni Mubarak, all three predecessors were assassinated in office, Mubarak present when Anwar Sadat was gunned down.   An army and significant military protection came naturally to protect President Mubarak, while internal charges of corruption appear to me no more relevant than in the U.S.

 

Egypt’s intellectual elite have been squawking like geese, as has more recently, Hillary Clinton, for full blown democracy.  In my opinion she and President Obama should tread far more quietly, which no doubt, they won’t, for I believe they should “shut up” versus tell another country’s leader to resign.

 

It took a long time following the slaying of Julius Caesar for Italy to become a democracy. Today Italy, several thousand years later, has its own economic challenges, and while a beautiful country with beautiful people, rotates its own leaders through revolving doors.

 

Egypt, since first on my business travel stops, I’ve been delighted to note their outstanding progress in the last fifteen years. It didn’t just happen. The Mubaraks and those able persons around them warrant praise and compassion, not the unwarranted attacks our President and Secretary of State continue to make.  The avoidance of chaos is a higher purpose than feeding the flames of bigotry and revolution.

 

Note: The initially written 2011 Windows on the World of Raymond Plank is along for the ride. 

 

 

 

POST MIDTERM REFLECTIONS

 

As I take pen in hand, we have recently entered the second decade of the 21st century, which has commenced amidst turbulent times in America and a highly unstable global scenario.  Among the verities extant in this uncertain world in which we find ourselves, I highlight the following from my collection of personal perspectives. 

 

As we hurtle through space and time on this “spaceship” Earth, some human behaviors undergo constant change while others, particularly those constituted on the slippery slopes of overwrought ego and greed, remain unaltered from time immemorial.

 

Yet through this haze of ever-accelerating technological change, education, in the form of lifetime learning, serves as a balance wheel and a hope for mankind. Education, coupled with the remarkable capacity of planet earth to adapt to humankind’s ever-growing environmental impact, somehow manage to balance mankind’s excessive follies over the millennia.

 

One such excess or folly can be expressed in the form of a query:  Can any structure or organization long survive in an economic environment in which the coin of the realm, be it individual, family, tribe or nation, consists of consumption in excess of sustainable levels?  As we examine the models provided by over  5000 years of recorded history,  we observe that nations, empires and civilizations have repeatedly risen and subsequently fallen due to the incursion of unbridled excesses of one form or another.

 

Related query:  In a more recent example, if the collapse of the housing and mortgage markets, precipitated by Wall Street excesses of greed-driven ingenuity, and government policy excesses of home ownership for everyone, regardless of ability to pay, coupled with agency failings to protect the public interest, set the world in freefall; is more of the same treatment likely to right “spaceship” Earth?  I don’t think so, and apparently the 2010 midterm election results suggest otherwise as well.

 

When Barack Obama campaigned, beating out Hillary and John McCain, I chose to look at the brighter side of the coin tarnished by both the leftist and Republican parties.  After all, thought I, it was only 50 years ago that the first Catholic Christian had made it to the White House in the form of war hero John F. Kennedy, who played down his military heroism, took the U.S. to the moon ahead of the Russians and faced-down the Soviet nuclear threat, albeit at a time when atomic bombs had less than one percent the power of today’s weapons.

 

When Obama succeeded to the White House, I found consolation that the last bastion of racial discrimination had finally fallen, and the U.S. had a president who, like his predecessors in the White House, would be judged solely for his actions and accountable for how he exercised the attendant power of the Presidency.  Both political parties would be left to their games of confrontation, corruption, character defamation and denigration.

We Americans have now expressed our collective opinion on Obama’s performance to date, which most viewed as overreaching and a continuation along the ruinous path of excess that has brought us to this point, and we overwhelmingly swung the pendulum back towards candidates who espoused limiting spending and bringing the bloated government budgets back towards balance.

The progress of technology is an example of positive change over the centuries, largely driven by man’s more positive attributes of curiosity and yearning to understand the world around us. We are all aware that medical science has been among the most rapidly advancing technologies that has been largely directed towards improving the state of mankind.  As recently as the lifetime of the “father of our nation,” George Washington, he and contemporaries were punctured and bled as part of cures, which as you might expect were few and far between. Today’s medical technology is so advanced that we are faced with the issue of when not to use it to maintain life indefinitely.

 

Of course technology can also be and has frequently been used as a tool by those who are motivated by less noble forces. The Germans in the early part of the 20th century were technology leaders. An example was their development of the zeppelin airship. The awesome Graf Zeppelin flew from 1928 to 1937, circled the globe without landing, and held the promise for great enhancement in travel. Unfortunately, further advancement of zeppelin technology largely ended with the Hindenburg, which crashed and burned in 1937, killing all on board. In that same 20st century, Adolph Hitler sired Mein Kampf and used that very same German technology prowess to support his diabolical attempts at world domination and national cleansing as a way to overcome his personal insecurities. Stalin came next in line, as he ran over all in his path on his way to slamming together the Soviet Union Subsequent Soviet leaders then attempted to use technology to achieve global supremacy, and inflicted great human suffering.

 

What goeth before a fall?  Overwrought ego, greed, and self-glorification.

 

It will take time to straighten out “the mess we’re in.”  You may wish to call up the musings of the Economist in the two articles below:

 

 

In closing out this chapter, I’ve a few selected recommendations that may appear minor in stature, but that I believe are giants in the future of planet Earth.

 

Under systemic government reform, please recognize the importance of providing the president and states’ governors (separation of powers) the line item veto for proposed legislation.  Secondary to perhaps limiting the squander of public funds, the number one reason is to hold the Executive accountable for the havoc executive leaders are able to bestow upon the people they are entrusted to diligently represent. 

 

Second, the powers of the Federal Reserve and related entities must be reined in. We must “curb the dog,” versus allowing the “marking” process to bypass the economic fire departments’ control points and strike up our country and world.

 

Personally, an audit of the Federal Reserve may have a nice ring, but in the world in which related entities have great influence beyond the Fed’s assumed present outreach, where there is a total lack of transparency and (an issue I haven’t seen addressed) no clear idea who and what bodies would undertake the audit; the consequences of undertaking such a venture into the unknown, warrant alternatives comprised of bite-sized initiatives. Perhaps it’s preferable we utilize that great tool, the plumber’s helper, followed by a warm shower.

 

Your thoughts as usual, would be appreciated.

 

Huzzah!