Monthly Archives: August 2011

What Moves You?

Joseph Stalin


Three pursuits are said to fuel most human endeavors – those of power, fortune, and fame. The news, when it’s not reporting hurricanes, is mostly about individuals in politics, business, and entertainment. These three driving forces are worldly representations, albeit quite removed, of the pillars of conscious existence – love, truth, and beauty, which stem from the bedrock of peace. The young are prone to take shortcuts and to pursue instead their low-brow reflections – pleasures of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll.

Metaphysics aside, the big three forces (power, fortune, and fame) are interconnected but not interchangeable. Actually, we strongly resent instances when as a group we imbue an individual with plenty of one and the bastard tries to convert it into the other two. When a politician is elected into a powerful office and then takes bribes or accepts inappropriate perks (converting power into fortune), she may be scalded or even jailed. This attitude could be more pronounced in the West, as older cultures are more accepting of sinecure and baksheesh. Translating power into fame intentionally is not sustainable in the long run. It may show-up rather innocuously, as retired politicians giving commencement addresses and publishing memoirs. But in its ultimate the result is a cult of personality, Stalin variety, and history frowns upon this.

Rabid fans may throw bras at a rock star, but relatively few enjoy the idea of gangster rapping youths becoming multimillionaires, an example of fame translated into a major fortune. Famous individuals pursuing positions of power in politics are inherently suspect, though people are often confused on this point. California tradition of gubernatorial election of bad actors goes back decades.

There is little rational logic to surrendering societal power to a good-looking demagogue with a coiffured wife in tow, rather than to a calculating businessman. But common folk consistently express deep fear that the moneyed and landed will conspire, Bilderberg-style, to control the political process and to make purely self-serving decisions, historical evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

In the end, political careers of Ross Perot and Lee Iacocca fizzled out, and Michael Bloomberg may have topped out as the Mayor of New York City, despite rumors of his 2012 Presidential ambitions. By comparison, Nelson Rockefeller, a NY Mayor for 14 years during the 1960s, got as high as an unelected US Vice President (appointed by Gerald Ford) in 1974, when he was 66. But he was not on Ford’s losing presidential ticket in ‘76.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Donald Trump attempted to grab all three, first as a ruthless businessman famous for unbridled greed, then with a media career as a rude TV personality, and very recently trying his hand in dirty politics. Thankfully, his attempts were aborted and the man looks like a joke.

The Man Behind DST

Image representing Yuri Milner as depicted in ...

Image via CrunchBase

It has been seven months since we wrote about the Moscow Facebook connection. So, what actually happened before that, you may ask.

The famous Facebook investment deals were done by a fund named Digital Sky Technologies (DST), headed by one Yuri Milner, hailing from Russia and now residing in a $100 million home sitting on seven acres of Silicon Valley’s posh neighborhood of Los Altos Hills.

The man is no slouch, having studied theoretical Physics at the prestigious Moscow University and completing in the early 1990s an MBA at Wharton. After a little talked about stint at the World Bank he headed back to Russia, where the whole country was being ‘privatized.’ There he headed Menatep, an investment banking arm of an oil-and-gas empire controlled by  Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

A decade went by, Mikhail had been convicted of tax fraud and stripped of tens of billions of natural resources holdings by Putin’s regime, and had  been doing hard time in Russian labor camps since 2005. Meanwhile Yuri, who will turn 50 in November, moved on to become the major investor in Internet companies in Russia, with a particularly astute eye for Social Networking properties. His holdings were aggregated under the umbrella of, the largest email provider there. owns Russia’s number two social networking site Odnoklassniki (Classmates) and number three Moi Mir (My World). Also, it controls a third of Russia’s top social networking site, Vkontakte (In Contact). The famous Facebook seriously lags homegrown competitors in Russia, a distant fourth, with well under 10 million subscribers. Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki each have three to four times the audience.


Vkontakte via Wikipedia

At the end of 2010 Yuri took public in London, at a valuation reaching $5 billion and raising well over a billion in cash in the process. A third of that valuation was based on bundling with the offering a fraction of the 10% stake  in Facebook that DST holds. This cash is perhaps twice what DST ponnied-up over last couple of years for their foreign investments, and after the deal they still own 75% of, plus two-thirds of their original Facebook shares. Purely brilliant.

Takes Two

Concepts in Eric Berne's Transactional Analysis

Image via Wikipedia

In a couple, do people grow to look the same over time? Or are they actually taking on two different roles and then look the part?

A couple sits in the car next to me, one with some air of lightness, a smile quick to light-up the face, a sense of ease.  The other is withdrawn, perhaps even somber or fully intent and searching for every chance to make the world a serious place.

Does it just seem that way, that between two people, at a given time, one is much more relaxed and jovial than the other?  Yet it can be seen so often, this pronounced difference in two mates, so distinct and undeniable. But a theory readily finds its own evidence; proof is easy when based on arbitrary and inherently subjective judgments.

Eric Berne

Eric Berne

It’s at least plausible, from a simple and quite likely simplistic principle, that opposites attract, and that once attracted start moving to opposite sides of many psychological dimensions. Transactional Analysis, as popularized by Eric Berne’s Games People Play, formally describes the Parent – Child dynamic, and also Prosecutor – Victim one.

Have you seen this in the world around you, in your friends and neighbors? Let me know.

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