Monday, April 21, 2014

Cold War in Internet Era

Amid news that Obama Administration is looking past recent troubles with Putin into a future where it would 'contain' possible damages Russia can do or incessant criticism that President Obama does not lead, here are some glimpses of what kind of warfare America can conduct in globally connected world - keep exposing those who want to subvert rule of law and international norms. Revelations that clearly links Ukrainian insurgents to Russian military folks is the exact step in that right direction. The more Obama Administration provides intelligence, concrete electronic / Big Data inputs, more it has a chance to respond effectively to Russian adventures in Global Media. That is the way you win global mind share in today's inter-connected world.

No one is saying that is sufficient. America must get more involved in NATO protection going forward, all which need not occur in public glare. Equally, Ukrainians must understand that their mother land is nowhere going to get protected if they allow detrimental 'looting and corruption' in their country. Corruption in Ukraine has simply brought it to a brink. Unless and until folks and well wishers of that country want to eradicate all pervasive corruption, all their love for their country is of much less value or use; Ukraine will not able be saved as a united country. (Campaign of Arvind Kejriwal in India shows that even in one of the most corrupt polities, one can make good politics by aiming to remove corruption.)

Reality is until West stands united and strong to a bully named Putin, dismemberment of Ukraine seems all too possible. West must use Internet and Big Data to win minds of Global Citizenry to isolate Putin. This must be backed by commitment of West in hard assets and equally strong sanctions as well as full realization by Ukrainian people that in the end 'they themselves only' can save their country. They must ensure fair and transparent elections as early as possible to embark upon corruption free country. Without that, Ukraine is doomed to be a footnote in History.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Reading Democratic Tea Leaves and Partisan Ripples

Here are few thoughts regarding unfolding play-book for Democrats:

- It is universally acknowledged that playing field is adverse for Democrats in 2014 elections. Given that legislatively nothing is going to happen in Congress (it is barely meeting 50 days or so in the remainder of this year), President Obama needs to give up any hopes of attaining anything as far as Immigration goes. Voter turnout is the bigger problem for Democrats come 2014. President Obama, as the Democratic Party Chief, has been lying low on Immigration with the hope that House Republicans in Congress would get necessary political space to achieve something. But with ObamaCare on upswing (Dems must fight it aggressively on the hustings now that positive results are coming in); House Republicans have every incentive not compromise with this President. Otherwise also their incentives have been always aligned to oppose whatever Obama proposes. So there is no realistic possibility of any compromise bill coming out of House on Immigration. Exactly, now is the time for Democrats and President to tune up the volume on Immigration and drive up their voter turnout. President Obama needs to keep doing what he has started. GOP does not want any Immigration Reforms; let us make them pay the 'political price' for such obstructionism. 

- The moonbeam Governor is indeed on something here - successfully finding politically winning solutions for one problem after the other. California Governor Jerry Brown has not shown any interest in Presidential bid 2016 so far. He does not have to do anything there, just keep focused on delivering what he has been up to. Pretty soon Democrats all over the nation will start realizing political value of Jerry Brown in setting the national agenda for 2016. The guy has found the luck (booming NASDAQ) and he is wise enough in exploiting this good luck of California for good purposes. (Even rain Gods smiled at the fag end of the current Winter season and possibly we are talking rain soaked season in 2014-15.)

- The one Democratic Governor I hugely respect and who has delivered so far is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. I even thought he will be the hot ticket after Hillary on the Blue side in 2016. But he has shown no such interest so far (well...that is the trick...). But that is besides the point, or rather all the 'point' - why is he acting so anti-Democrat lately? Adhering to Party orthodoxy is not the goal here, but the issue is he is adopting failed policies of Romney-Ryan Ticket - 'favor the rich and shove the poor'. Indeed Harold Meyerson asks a right question - why is there no Democratic Primary Challenge to Andrew Cuomo? With his policies enacted so far, he seems to be ripe for that. In the end, he and Democratic Agenda can move forward only as much as he is ready to carry the whole party with him. He cannot be a Demcratic leader when there are no followers for him in Democratic Party and when he places misplaced faith in 'being anti-Democrat' is the way to govern. We all know his leadership in gay-rights movement, Democrats need similar leadership from him in the 'bread and butter' economic issues

Saturday, April 12, 2014

AAP - Lost Chance in 2014?

Reports are surfacing that AAP is admitting that:
- it was essentially 'stupid' to resign from Delhi State Administration and
- the party has attempted to grab more than what it can chew in the Loksabha 2014 election.

With the prospect of possibly drawing blank in Loksabha 2014 or at the most a single digit representation in Loksabha; AAP leaders and supporters are realizing that Mamata Banerjee style 'rage and emotion driven' politics is hardly useful in the long term. Instead of establishing credibility with Indian Voters and demonstrating the resolve to make actual sustained changes in lives of Indians; immature Kejriwal threw the towel early on. What is sad is neither Party's senior members could bring sanity to the decision making nor there is a cohesive leadership structure in place to arrive and execute longer term decisions.

But then these are early days for this party. AAP could take solace from History that even BJP started with only 2 seats despite 7.74% national vote share in Loksabha immediately after the death of Indira Gandhi as well as BSP started with 3 seats even with 4.5% national votes. Over the years both parties grew into the force to reckon with. In all these years I have seen most serious acts of Political Parties in India getting fair chances from Indian Voters over a period. So if not in 2014, but after that AAP would get a chance so long as it sticks to its policy prescriptions of 'transparency, corruption free administration'. Need for such governance at national and state level is not going away. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Honorable Exit

Like many people, I thought Kathleen Sebelius was primarily responsible person for the botched roll out of HealthCare.gov and she should have resigned last Fall. You hold 'political appointee' as the responsible person for a political fight and she was that person. 

She stuck with the task on hand and President allowed her to get her job done well. She did it and that is a perfect time to exit honorably. That demonstrates capacity of this White House to accommodate folks to try faithfully to repair a botched job. It is no less a good thing that the incoming appointee is a competent manager. This administration needs managerial competence in days to come since legislatively there is nothing what President Obama can achieve. What is left is to guard what policy enactments have erected so far. 

Monday, April 07, 2014

Israel Palestine Peace Talks


Is it all Sec. Kerry's fault as some pro-Israel commentators claim or should we praise him for his courage so far? No doubt Sec. Kerry could have been more guarded in showing any kind of optimism early in the negotiations. As Israeli leader Tzipi Livni suggested he might have as well allowed Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to run on their own rather getting in between. Or as some commentators rightly criticize, Sec. Kerry shouldn't have invested so much to commit the cardinal mistake of 'being party to the negotiations' rather than being a strictly mediator when he offered the byzantine Pollard deal.

But that is all water under the bridge. To be fair Sec. Kerry did achieve few things. He was able to conduct the diplomacy without any leakages for so long. That is not a mean achievement given the world wide media focus on this issue. Palestinians are wrong when they claim that these negotiations did not produce anything - what about scores of prisoners freed so far and relatively slow pace of settlement in occupied territory? And what true price Palestinians have paid additionally in these months while negotiations are going on? Doesn't seem like any price - their rights of going to world bodies remain as they are and in fact Palestine executed those rights in applying for 15 international bodies.  

Truth is both parties are not mature to visualize and realize a longer term peace. Israel sees itself in a stronger position from a tactical point of view and does not see any reasons to compromise. Whereas though Palestine is on a weaker wicket, it assumes that with every passing day in the integrated world with Internet, it would be in a position to move world public opinion more and more in it's favor. Who is right then? Are Israeli Right wingers right to think that Israel can simply withdraw from a position of strength leaving behind scraps for a perennially weak Palestinian state unable to stand on its own? Sure Israel can do that in years to come and for a minute we can keep aside the morality of such an act as well, especially considering how the world heaped 'injustice on Jews' for centuries. But how does that address Israel's problem of growing Arabs born in Israel? Or for sure world opinion turning against it? Imagine a world in post-Obama America where contours of World Politics are determined more and more by Asia, slowly recovering Europe and many other non-Americans countries; all sympathetic to Palestinian cause. (Obama or his successors, they better do no tie America's future to defend increasingly indefensible position of Israel. Conservative Israeli backers in America are blind to believe that American democratic process is so corrupt that larger Americans would not recognize the folly of toeing Israeli line at a great cost to this great country.)

What is clear though however, Palestinians not to have any sanity in understanding hopelessness of their future country when Israel unilaterally withdraws from some patch-work of land and basically undermines sustainability of an independent Palestinian permanently. Israel withdrew from Gaza, what happened? Have Palestinians emerged stronger? Not at all. Divisive politics among Palestinians still kept them weak at the negotiation table. Neither Arafat had nor the current leadership of Palestinians have leadership qualities which can clinch the peace deal.

Probably that is what Sec. Kerry needs to recognize - fundamentally Palestinians are incapable of  undertaking any serious peace compromise. At best what can be desired is day-to-day compromises without any larger picture initiatives. Palestinians are more likely to get a 'kick' from a meaningless legal victory in the court of global opinion than real improvements in lives of common people. And for Israeli's what needs to be understood is 'forces which are against peace deal' for narrow political advantage are alive and kicking.

So what can Sec. Kerry do then? May be as Tzipi Livni says, let the two parties negotiate on their own and USA focuses on other international issues to gain leverage over Israel. For example, if America demonstrates that it is serious in locking down Iranian nuke program, it will have salutary effects on these middle-east negotiations. That seems to the way forward rather than America getting bogged down with intransigence and petty tactics of these two parties. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

ObamaCare

In few days we will come to know whether enrollment number crossed 7 million or not. But definitely it upped the earlier low ball estimate of 6 million which even many folks felt harder to achieve considering the botched roll out. In factual terms this is a positive turn for President Obama (not to so bad after a reasonable foreign tour); but one will have to wait to know whether it pays any political dividends to President and Democrats

We will have to wait till early summer for any positive impact on individuals to make way in political circles. Of course, Republicans are not going to be quiet till then and that is when President and Democrats need to vehemently argue that 'because of these incessant obstacles Republicans have created over years' health insurances offered by ObamaCare are denied for many deserving Americans. Such an argument would at least consolidate Dem vote bank where possibly the tide is turning. In the end, Democrats will have to defend this law and continue to make efforts to move the needle on reform of American Health Care System. Republicans still do not have any positive agenda for American's health.

Monday, March 24, 2014

India - Broken Democracy?

As many aspirants for political position in India ventilate in this season as 'mother of democracy' gears up for 16th Loksabha election next month, one wonders what is going on. People threatening 'suicide' if a political party denies them 'party nomination' while every major party threatened by disgruntled party leaders who are denied coveted party nomination. Meanwhile a seasoned politician goes openly in advocating a 'voting fraud'.

The root cause of all this non-sense is that the process or politics of making someone party nomination has not settled down in India. When there are no primaries, this becomes a huge issue. Party nomination becomes an exercise in favoritism with no objective basis of evaluating 'wining potential' of any particular candidate. On top of it, India does not have proportional voting system; so someone with only 30% voters backing winning the constituency is a normal phenomenon.

Can anything change? Nothing unless a major party starts intra-party primaries (AAP?).

Update - I did not expect Rahul Gandhi showing the foresight in pointing the importance of 'party primaries'. That is a pleasant surprise. It is good that Rahul Gandhi shows that at least his ideas are right (like focusing on lower middle class, exactly the strata Congress Party needs to attend too). Of course, having right set of policies and ideas is only the first step, translating those by actual execution is a harder problem; especially when you are slated to loose big time in coming elections.

The pitch for Rahul Gandhi needs to be "we made mistakes, we will not tolerate Corruption, and these are steps we would take". The basic contradiction of Congress is hard to reconcile for average Indians - you claim you want clean polity, then why did you allow so many scams after scams all along? You cannot wake at the last minute and 'talk good game'. Unless Congress accepts what has gone wrong and takes demonstrative steps on hustings (like making income open for all its candidates, making party contributions transparent like AAP and making it open what election expenses it incurs). It is too late of an hour, but 'right politics and right policies' are never late for citizens in the long run for a democratic state.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Russian Theoretician and Other Biggies of Knowledge

Which Russian we would like - of course not the new Czar Putin; but likes of Andrei Linde whose video went viral.

No idea which of these physicists will claim their Nobel Prize soon - Linde, Guth or Kovac or his colleagues who did the experiment in Antarctica. Clearly all these are qualified since validation of Gravitational waves is such an epoch making event in Human Knowledge.

Talking of Human Knowledge, I was impressed by the simplicity and clarity of Leslie Lamport's Paxos approach for distributed computing problems, techniques as a programmer I come across in my profession. He won his Turing Award yesterday. 5th Turing Award of Microsoft Research, no wonder Bill Gates was happy.

And soon will come Fields Medal of Mathematics - rumors are flying high about these surreal brain powers. Will France overtake USA? Or will Princeton retain its edge? Those will be some fun facts to watch as in most cases works of these geneuises is beyond comprehension for common people like me.


Monday, March 17, 2014

West - Still Coming to Grips

As the Market would open this new week with a full realization of 'annexation' of Crimea by Putin, Western Capitals may announce sleuth of sanctions. But there are still doubts whether Western Leaders would be able to put forward an emphatic response. 

American companies doing business in Russia are going to get impacted and it is not clear all those chest-thumping Republicans will be able to withstand Business pressures when losses of billions of dollars come to due for few American Corporations. Same with Germany. Chancellor's upbringing in East Germany and her highly credible conservative instincts make it possible that finally she will cross the line and make ready her country for the business loss with Russia. But it has not happened yet. Weakest link is UK PM Cameron. Neither does he have much political latitude in being strong in the event of London losing business of Russian oligarchy, nor is he a political visionary. That is where what Garry Kasparov says rings the bell. (Politico did an excellent job in publishing this article, first time I saw Politico getting out of the 'beltway-politics-as-sports' mentality and attempting to take an authentic position on an important issue, albeit implicitly.)

The other question is, it is still not clear whether West is ready for a long game, which is clearly needed here. In a year or so Obama will be a lame duck President (some can credibly argue that he is already a lame duck President incapable of pushing anything worthwhile through American Politics) while Cameron would be facing the music from Scottish People in few months followed by slaughtering at UK General Elections. Contrary to what many experts argue that it should be America who needs to lead here, I agree with Senate Majority Leader's instincts in this case  - it is Europeans, especially Germany, which has to set the course because 'for them the stakes are maximum'. Listening to Sen. Rand, one can hear perennial 'isolationists' arguments of America. Still President Obama has to play his 'leading from behind Merkel' policy and keep urging Europeans to stay united and effective. Least what he can do is keep reminding Europeans what Kasparov so painfully reminded in his article. 

There still does not seem to be any longer term political consensus, both in Europe and America, about how to remove Europe's dependency on Russian Energy supplies. Though America has bountiful of Natural Gas, it is possible that Asian customers pay more than Europeans. But can both Europe and USA see the strategic advantage in using Norther American energy sources (or else huge Solar Plants in Morocco and Algeria with electricity transferred to Europe, but nah, European Environmentalism would never allow any such ambitious projects)? Do tax payers dollars have a room to play here, like Marshall Plan after WWII,  since it could be a much more effective way of buying security in Europe rather than simply installing more maddening nukes. The way American Politics is argued these days - anything purchased or financed by tax dollars is condemned - it is hard to see how any such strategic thinking and execution is possible with American and European politicians. 

This is the same Congress which does not get the elemental tactics like letting China play a bigger role at IMF so as it becomes considerate to West's concerns about Russia, by way of USA backing IMF reforms. These Republicans are so blind to national interests due to their unending political desire of pulling down Obama that they have been opposing for years legitimate request of the Administration to move around $63 Billions from emergency account to general poll so as USA can pay its increased quota of IMF and make the way for reforms at IMF. CBO estimates the actual cost of IMF reforms little bit over 300 Million dollars! Administration had to resort to the hard tactic of attaching this request to Ukrainian 1 Billion Load guarantees and no surprise even such a paltry aid package to Ukraine has stalled in Congress! 

Putin has exploited these weaknesses of Western countries and he will continue to reap fruits of it until Western leaders finally come to grips of what is drawn in front of them. Effectively it is Cold War, their wishing otherwise do not change the reality.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Uphill for Dems?

Does anyone remember blaming Republicans for Government Shutdown just few months back? Does anyone blame GOP for that? Political reality is no one holds GOP accountable for that.

So few months is a long period in Politics. One Dem Loss in early March might not make their case hopeless. But what is true is that ObamaCare is turning into 'politically radio-active' item - when political supporters / creators of the law start to go away one by one, things are not same. That is bad and it is disastrous for America. But who cares for national interests? What matters is Ted Cruz thumping his chest for ObamaCare Repeal

Dems will start going away from Obama Admin. at even faster rate. Clearly at this point, this president is a politically liability with no aptitude for making big on his 'core thesis' - that Government can be harnessed for the good of people when proper Administrative Competence is in place. That is, he needs to win the political argument with Americans at large so that GOP in Congress is forced to work with Obama; that is his own pickle of making for which he has become a president to solve. It is not like Barack Obama is Jerry Brown.

If the current trajectory is continued for next couple of months, despite long term politically favorable winds for Democrats; Dems, especially Obama Dems, are in some serious trouble. What can change that trajectory?

- ObamaCare gets 6 Million Plus enrollments and it finally starts flushing out good and positive stories about individuals benefited by it.
- Economy continues to pick up.
- On Foreign Policy terrain either President Obama gets an opportunity to brandish his testosterone effectively or one of his big ticket 'peace deals' (Iran, Syria, Israel-Palestine and  Sino-Japan dispute) advances decisively. 

Absence of that and Dems are going to have blues come November. Possibly time has come for Democrats and Progressives to shed Obama and start coalesceing around Democratic Leaders who have demonstrated the Administrative Competence to deliver on basic Democratic ethos - government for the larger good of People and that 'it can be done'. 

(Obviously that means Dem Governors like Andrew Cuomo, or NY Mayor De Blasio if he can deliver any of his ultra-left promises and why not even Jerry Brown? Hillary - though she is the presumptive / putative Dem nominee at this point, as John Kerry advances or even fails in his endeavors of high risks, it is easy to portray her as not accomplishment leader. People can easily argue that she did not even try as hard like Kerry. What might work though for her is - if overall Economy does well: vote Democrats to preserve the prosperity; last time her husband brought the prosperity, GOP squandered it. That can be a potent argument, but it is to be seen; otherwise Hillary may not be the leader who Dems can bank on.)