Sunday, April 26, 2015

Why America Will Sign Pacific Trade Deal

I think Republicans have sensed the 'blood' here - that infighting among Democrats is going to inflame as the Trans Pacific Trade Deal moves forward. All these traditional Democrats, na, let us just call them 'legacy democrats'; identify themselves with the bygone era of Blue Color Workers whereas substantial votes in Democrats are coming from urban, cosmopolitan non-labor middle class. There is some merit in claims that these trade deals result in job losses. But then busting of Dot Com boom in 2000 and Great Recession in 2008 destroyed more jobs; not related to trade liberalization. 

For Democrats to be able to explain all this to their all shrinking Blue Color base is to ask above their 'pay grade'. One bright spot on unionized labor is SEIU; I doubt how much of these service employees are impacted by trade liberalization. After all with open trade, Hotel Workers do not get laid off. Rather Hotels, Restaurants and larger Service Sector should thrive as trade gets liberalized.

From Republican perspective, what better deal can be there which makes life of Hillary Clinton difficult? With no intellectual over arching policy framework to explain why liberalized Trade should be avoided nor a consistent vision of how common Americans would alleviate their economic struggles in ever increasing inequality in this country; Democrats are simply not in a position to stop TPP. That is the opportunity GOP senses and the wheel of competitive politics turns a full circle here. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Step Forward in Indian Democracy

Congress Party Leader Rahul Gandhi finally appears and slams Modi Government rightfully for its flamboyance and tendency to carry waters for Big Corporations on the back of 'have nots' of Indian society. This is what any vibrant democracy needs - opposition calling out shortcomings of the ruling party.

For Narendra Modi to celebrate his decisive victory and undertake few victory parades all over the world is all understood. But any excess of that is least useful to common Indians and it was all obivious for someone to point out this excess. That a leader of opposition does all that is good for India. Equally, to ram a land bill where immediate end usage of the land could bring windfall to developers at the cost of original land owners; it all ricks of an unfair play. This all needs to be called out and the job of an opposition party is to precisely do that. 

What happens next? For sure Narendra Modi and BJP are caught exposed here. But Modi himself and the BJP as a Party have their political antennas sufficiently alert. So expect Modi's BJP to make amendments to the (or even drop altogether) Land Acquisition Bill and go away from the 'Gujarat model of being cozy with Corporations and Big Money'. 

'What works in Gujarat is not necessary to work all over India' - that is the hard lesson Modi and BJP are expected to internalize in coming days. Rahul Gandhi's speech in Loksabha is simply an enabler for such learning by Modi and BJP.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Hillary - the Default Candidate

Fundamentally, American Republic in 21st century faces three core problems:

- The Global Capitalism which is epitomized in USA has probably reached its limits. Thomas Piketty's argument is one credible 'criticism' of this model and nowhere American Political System is likely to address that burning problem. America has only one Elizabeth Warren talking some fundamental truths but she cannot raise Billions to compete in presidential contest made all open by the misguided Citizens United Roberts Court. Increasing inequality is a prominent symptom of the contemporary capitalism.

- Exotic, exclusionary American Exceptionalism has no place in 21st Century World. The world has changed lot after WWII as well as end of Cold World War. There are legitimate countries like China, India, Indonesia, Brazil and many others which are willing, capable and qualified to lead Humanity shoulder to shoulder to USA, Russia and colonial powers from Europe.(1) At some point, the day of reckoning is going to come to American Exceptionalism and no politician, Republican or Democratic including Hillary, is preparing Americans for such an ongoing shift in global power structure.

- Today we are a deeply divided and essentially segregated / sorted nation. Forget Barack Obama - we are deeply divided into Blue and Red States. Neither Obama Presidency nor Hillary Presidency nor any other Republican Presidency shows any capability or gumption to take we Americans beyond this schism and undertake some needed reforms(2) to improve quality of American Life.

The obvious question is - is Hillary Clinton Campaign likely to move the needle in this regards? I doubt and her campaign announcement doesn't shed any light on that. Perhaps Clinton Campaign would be thinking that in days to come, Hillary would articulate answers to the above mentioned concerns in addition to the question - why does she want to be the President? Fair enough since after all the election is 18 months away. So then what propels the Clinton campaign? We have Jonathan Chait answering that question:

"The argument for Clinton in 2016 is that she is the candidate of the only major American political party not run by lunatics. There is only one choice for voters who want a president who accepts climate science and rejects voodoo economics, and whose domestic platform would not engineer the largest upward redistribution of resources in American history. Even if the relatively sober Jeb Bush wins the nomination, he will have to accommodate himself to his party's barking-mad consensus. She is non-crazy America’s choice by default. And it is not necessarily an exciting choice, but it is an easy one, and a proposition behind which she will probably command a majority."

This is where we are in the American Politics today - one political party (Republican) is so off hinges that substantial number of American Voters would simply find Hilliary Clinton as the default candidate just by being not a Republican; just by being not a candidate of rich.

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(1): No one is ignoring or undermining lack of freedom and democracy in China; but no one can question China's ability to lead globally as that country knows how to remain united, which it has for 3 millennial. China has pulled up essentially Billion people out of poverty in shortest time and is equally preparing to lead the world in some concrete ways.

(2): Reforms like undertaking investments in crumbling physical infrastructure, investments in Internet infrastructure, continued investments in basic science and education, reforms to keep our entitlement and retirement programs on sustainable basis, criminal system reforms, reforms in local governance and many more.


Thursday, April 09, 2015

America - Contradictions Galore

You have a dominant banker warning American and Global Financial System about the 'lack of Fed bonds'. The only way I understand such a warning is that the Federal Government not issuing more deb will in turn can cause some serious economic harm to American and Global Economy.

But meanwhile what are American politicians up to - essentially fostering such a calamity on America. The fetish of balanced budget and constitutional convention will lead to such a chaos unless more Americans understand that the Fed Budget is not same as like a family budget

Danger with today's American Politics is, it will bring the chaos and maximum pain to larger population - American and Global - before it takes corrective actions. Seems like Churchill Maxim is what American Politicians want to prove - "You can always rely on America to do the right thing, once it has exhausted the alternatives." If it means colossal suffering to common Americans and most folks on this planet in between - that is just a collateral damage from the Conservative point of view.

Now, that is some audacity more adventurous than what we know

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Justice in America?

A white police officer kills a black male for what looks like a minor traffic offense. The state of South Carolina charges him as the murder. Federal Justice Department and FBI to follow up with their own queries.

Come on Nikki Haley, time to prove your worth here - what are Polices for: to protect weakest in the society and to uphold rule of law for everyone; mighty or ordinary.

What has been happening in recent months in America as far as 'biased enforcement of police rule concerned' is no good. Or may be that it is how things have been all the time and only now when a black president is occupying the White House, folks and Media have started to ask some real uncomfortable questions.

Somehow I have a feeling that this episode is not going to be easy for America to digest. Forget all the bantering about Iran and how that society perpetuates injustice...

And it should not be easy for America - damn any consequences. If we want to live as the most open and honorable democractic society in the world; we must bring the justice in this case as well as in all situations where Blacks and minorities are killed with impunity under the pretext of Law and Order.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Cricket - Aussie Domination Continues

ICC World Cup has so far 11 editions including what concluded tonight in Cricket's glory place -MCG. (Boy, imagine 93 thousand folks watching the game in a magnificent stadium; any sport will be proud of having this number in the audience.)

Aussies made to finals in 7 of those 11 editions and have won 5 times by now; that is called dominance! (FIFA World Cup has had so far 20 editions, Brazil appeared 7 times in the final and won 5 times while Germany appeared 8 times to win 4 times.)

During the 2015 tournament when Aussies lost their only game, it was while visiting New Zealand. Apart from that, Australia played all their games at home and what it showed is that they are simply the cricketing force of their own at home. Swashbuckling batting all through the team till 8th wicket, deep quality bowling bench and equally enthusiastic fielding; that has been the recipe of their success. 

But beyond that, there is something about the Aussie attitude which says a lot - always attacking, never to give up; aggression to the end. Say what you about that - it has brought success to the Aussie team so far in Cricketing. 

One of the most admirable things I find in Australian Cricket is Leadership of their teams on the ground and succession in their leaders. No Sport has seen such a smooth transition in leadership and grooming of next leaders as like Australian Cricket Teams; generation after generations. Michael Clark had the perfect sense of timing as well as poignancy of the historical moment in declaring his retirement from ODIWhat more glorious way can be there to retire from the game when you are atop of the world and when you had had a majestic inning! Well done Michael Clark while the 'golden summer' of Smith continues nonstop.

Billions in South Asian sub-continent may be sulking today and that is understandable. But sporting competences shown by a country of 4.5 millions and mighty Aussies, a country of around 24 millions, are still unmatched.

ICC World Cup 2015 edition was a great sporting spectacle and indeed it was a 'show case' cricket. Host nations staged an impeccable tournament and 14 top teams displayed 'cream of cricket'. Once again Australia leads us to the glorious tradition and history of Cricket.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

GOP is Governing!

"Don't look now but we are actually governing"

-- Rep. Renee Ellmers (Republican House Member from North Carolina)

One can understand the elated feelings of GOP given all they have achieved in recent years is 'tantrums, endless Obamacare repeal bills and government shutdown'. As 'hell no caucus' folks like Rep. Jim Jordon (Ohio) turns the corner, Speaker Boehner is going to find that it is easier to cut deals

This Medicare fix has been long overdue. In Speaker Boehner's own terms, Congress has kicked the can 17 times. No one at the start of 114th Congress would have thought that 'this' deal would be feasible given the rise of ultra-conservatives in GOP and initial legislative stumbles faced by Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader McConnell. 

It seems early on 'purchase' from Nancy Pelosi essentially created the 'space' for Boehner to plow the course in this case and as the bill became inevitable; it made easier for rest of the Republicans to ride the bus. Senate should adopt this bill. Hold out by Senate Democrats seems out of place here.

No one is expecting this bipartisan co-operation will continue. This bill had been unique, it has unique circumstances while Nancy Pelosi and Democrats had vested interests in getting this passed. But this passage does show that despite shrill noises by Ultra-Conservatives in Republican Party, Boehner is going to get more and more space to cut deals as Obama Term fades. Essentially, American Politics is moving forward as Obama Political Fights become history. Like a clock work, 'political upside in opposing Obama' is a diminishing return now. All these presidential candidates, sure they will continue the staple diet of talking Obama trash; but it will only remain a talk, as accomplishments of Obama Presidency starts cementing in American political edifice. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Bibi going nowhere

Clearly, global media over estimated strength of Israeli Center-Left parties in today's Israeli elections. Though PM Netanyahu's speech to Congress might not have helped, two of his last minute political calls seem to have helped to coalesce all of the Right votes for him:
- emphatic 'no' to a Palestinian state and
- racial and apartheid style hectoring of Israeli Arabs who voted in droves for the Joint List. 

Later seems to be the only positive outcome of this election along with not so sterling performance of some of the right wing parties.

Assuming PM Netanyahu cobbles a coalition, which he seems to be more in the position than his opponent, there are number of consequences of this development:
- Radical elements in GOP which greeted Bibi with full embrace will get emboldened; resulting in continued shrill rhetoric in American Politics so far as Middle-East Foreign policy goes.
- More spanners in work for Iranian peace deal, more headache to Sec. Kerry; almost making it difficult to pass.
- 'Cause of independent Palestine' going completely to toilets with not much possibility of any peace deal any time soon. This would mean Palestinian faction will bring more votes to UNSC, they will escalate their fight in Europe and in global public opinion with a real possibility of further isolation of Israel in global body politics.

With complete neglect of economic policy by Netanyahu administration and willingness to allow rabid capitalism which induces more and more inequality in Israel; I suspect at some point more number of Israeli people will have buyer's remorse. (Equally it is imperative that Center-Left coalition improves upon their current political acumen since they could not match the political hard-ball of Bibi in this election.)

But beyond Israel (after all it is a working democracy and it will be forced eventually to solve the problem of life beyond Bibi); immediate questions are for Obama Administration. It can accept the election result pliantly and  consider this as the mandate for Bibi. I doubt Obama Administration will do that and indeed it should not do that. Obama Administration simply has to run down the clock here. Solving Arab-Israel problem is off the table and even if it was on the table, with Bibi's refusal for an independent Palestinian state and expected refusal to stop Jewish settlements in Palestinian land which he will undertake now with vengeance; it will be waste of time and waste of political capital, whatever political capital left with Obama Administration.

Ideally, I would love President Obama never to meet PM Netanyahu in remaining days of his administration. Sec. Kerry can continue the low level dialogue, but there is absolutely no reason to elevate that dialogue any higher. There is no need of Bibi visiting White House nor any coordinated initiatives apart from whatever projects are in works (like Iron Dome, sharing of intelligence and coordination for fight against ISIS). Because what is ahead is - more protracted conflict in Middle-East, more settlements on occupied land, possibly next Intifada and continued bombastic rhetoric from rejuvenated Israeli PM Netanyahu. 

In the end what is perplexing is a country with population little more than Bay Area (which has 7 Millions versus Zionist State at 8.2 Millions including 20% Arabs) would have such an outsize influence on Washington Politics and Global Politics. The job for Obama Administration is clear - to cut down this undue influence to it's rational proportion. 

Bibi's re-election offers that opportunity to this President.

Monday, March 09, 2015

What is happening in Australia?

While we continue to enjoy scintillating ICC Cricket World Cup; we come to know tragedies likes an Indian Techie slaughtered in Sydney, Australia. The murder was ghastly.

Australian PM Abbott has taken uncompromising line against Terrorism and Immigration. Will he do the same and bring to books those who murder an innocent Indian Techie? A proud, loving and caring Mother and Wife; Prabha died of no fault of hers. Or are lives of brown skin Indians of inferior class compared to white skin? What a disaster on Women's Day. PM Abbott must be judged by Indian Government based on how does he stop such violence going forward and bring justice to murders of an innocent victim in this case. 

India's PM Modi needs to hold a firm line here. His job is to let rest of the world know that "lives of Indians are not cheap". India's IT professionals have been braving this racist and bad world for a while. These IT professionals working across the globe do not need all that crap VIP treatment on NRI mela's. What we need is might of rising India in demanding accountability from these foreign states who fail to protect law abiding Indian Techie's. 

That may not be a bad resolve for the Indian state on the occasion of International Women's Day.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Hillary is Back!

Your reputation precedes you. In case of Hillary Clinton, her scandals have arrived perfectly in advance of her widely expected presidential bid. It is true that she has been battling such political controversies all through out her public life and her opponents - Republicans - have every interest in igniting such ruckus. But still one cannot miss the uncanny ability of Hillary Clinton to be in news for all wrong reasons. Why is that there never is a big news about her policy prescription while it is always about one stupid decision after another? I wonder Americans are in any mood to accept such a "drama queen" especially after 6 years of "Obama no-drama".

No matter which way you cut it, it was a bone headed decision to host Hillary Clinton's Email Server privately in her house rather than use Federal Government's email system when she was Secretary of State in Obama Administration. This reveals many things - Clinton thought she would "get away" with it. She and her team have been completely out of tune when it comes to understand American's expectations about transparency from their public officials. No wonder Jeb Bush camp will be giddy as he dumps all his emails - san privacy concerns - during his Florida Governorship. Hillary Clinton has a knack to bring forward "wrong things" while pushing the real policy debate in the background.

It is not just her email scandal, bigger issue is proprietary of over 2 Billions collected by Clinton Foundation; many of these dollars from foreign sources with full implicit knowledge of she might occupy White House come 2017. If this is not Corruption in 21st century then what? We do not need literal "greenbacks under the table" for Hilary to grant possibly favorable political and economic decisions once in the Oval Office. Who knows how many "chits" she collected while collecting these millions? (It is irrelevant whether collected monies were used for private consumption of Clintons or towards a charity. Unanswered question is, what did Clintons commit in soliciting those dollars?)  

Apart from her "scandal prone, always me centric" politics, one is not sure whether Hillary Clinton has got it right what ails American Politics and more importantly how to push forward a progressive agenda given the gridlock of American System. There have been polemical articles recently about what is wrong with American Politics. Heart of it is Congressional Gridlock. Barack Obama famously claimed that his 2012 re-election would reduce the fever of partisanship in Washington. That did not happen. Hillary Clinton is simply disingenuously claiming that she will do "kumbaya" with Republicans and that is it.

Until Democrats start looking at their leader as someone not only who would win the presidential election, but carry the larger vote for Democrats in Congress; there is no substantive progress here. In other words, in today's America only those leaders are going to be towering, transformational who bring their own parliamentary majority. Hillary Clinton is nowhere of this goal. 

However, Hillary Clinton has still few things going in her favor, despite usual dirty, entitlement oriented politics which she practices:
- American elections are still bought with large sums. Roberts court has given that gift to us in the name of 'freedom of speech' and there is no one in the American Politics today except possibly Jeb Bush who can produce as much "cash" as the duo of Hillary and Bill Clinton. Not for nothing all those "deep ties" to Wall Street have been nurtured for decades by Clintons.
- Republicans are still on the sedative of "tax cuts for rich" in the name of Reagan. It is year 2015, we have had Thomas Piketty and still all that Republicans think is more tax cuts for rich. Given that, it is a potent platform for any Democrat to run as she is the only candidate who would stop further plundering of American Middle and Lower Class while not siding with Rich. That is brass knuckle class warfare, but that will always win; especially given the glaring inequality in today's America.
- Finally, who else if not Hillary on the Democratic Ticket? After all it is basics of 'identity politics' - it is time for a woman Commander-in-Chief...Exactly, that is the tragedy of Democratic Party and with torrent of Hillary Scandals; who knows, Dems will pay the ultimate price in 2016 - loss of not just Congress, but White House too.

Now that will be the transformative moment and an immense loss for the progressive cause. Hillary's disposition in 'running narcissistic' politics rather than policy based discourse would have contributed immeasurably to it by then.