Friday, May 22, 2015

Obama Pacific Trade Deal

Paul Krugman is right to charge Obama Administration that the new Pacific Trade Deal would:
- give a pass to banks and
- allow big corporations to hold sway on trade potential at the cost of jobs as well as upholding of phony Intellectual Property rights.

But he does not mention the strategic point of 'containing China' by engaging with rest of Pacific Rim nations. That is one of the core motives of pursuing this trade deal. Equally, Obama Administration is right to argue that this deal is a chance to enforce appropriate Labor conditions in countries like Vietnam. 

It is all right that Elizabeth Warren's of the world would make lot of noise. But Obama Administration must continue this path of liberalized trade, that is the only way to keep  American Economy competitive while plucking along the strategic goal of containing China. 

Friday, May 08, 2015

United Kingdom - Hangs on for Unity

The disastrous outcome in the UK election would have been Labor Party getting maximum seats but needing to get support of SNP for majority. What that would have brought in is desperation of PM Ed Miliband in keeing SNP Boss Nicola Sturgeon happy at the cost of trading 'unity' of UK. That is because what is not clear is whether SNP is for preserving UK or creating a free Scotland at any cost; including breaking Queen's Kingdom. So far all pointers are in the direction of breaking United Kingdom - that is what seems to be the end goal of SNP. "If the referendum failed, then let us try the Westminster route"; that seems to be the SNP strategy here. With Labor government, Ed Miliband would have meekly participated in games of one Nicola in breaking UK. With Cameroon's Tory securing the majority, this bad outcome is avoided and that is the significance of these results.

What UK PM David Cameroon needs to do is to expose the folly of breaking the current UK. He better listen to Boris Johnson in moving UK more along federal structure rather than the current untenable situation of SNP having its say on 85% English residents via their 56 strong MP cohort in UK Parliament while SNP getting complete powers in running their own affairs in Scotland

There are two more areas where Tory PM David Cameroon needs to 'thread the needle':
- without losing economic benefits of being a part of EU, he needs to establish firmly the centrality of Westminster sovereignty over EU (read German) bureaucracy operating from Brussels; and
- give up the wrong headed fetish of 'austerity' as championed by Finance Minister Osborne. 

Only by addressing these two core problems, David Cameroon would get the necessary political space to strengthen the federal structure of UK to keep it intact. Tory victory in 2015 has presented him with an opportunity to precisely achieve this historic task - keep the 'united' of United Kingdom.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Shut Down Clinton Foundation

The basic business model of any foundation undertaking charitable work is, the patriarch makes lots of money in legal manners and in a good old tradition of 'giving back to society' creates the corpus fund to give away money to actual groups and people who undertake the hard task of charitable work. The patriarch puts right people at the helm of the foundation and then puts in process, tradition in place so as it continues to function well, continues to adhere to it's original goals.

Clinton Foundation does not adhere to this traditional business model. First of all, Bill or Hillary didn't make any multi-millions to give away in any noticeable manner. Clintons are not Gates Family of Microsoft. So then what is the source of funds at Clinton Foundation? Bill's 'connections and network' all over the world developed as American President. However, there is a very fine line between 'sleaze, corruption' and 'networking' when another of your family member is seeking the highest elected office of the land. 

Bill Clinton could have opted to a model where he rubs his 'start dust' to raise money for many, many other competent and qualified non-profit organizations undertaking great work. Why did he opt for spending all of his foundation money in-house? Gaining competence in undertaking volunteer work is not easy, it takes years of dedicated expert involvement and such operations are expected to be separate from fund raising. No wonder, many donors are noticing sub-optimal ways of Clinton Foundation.

Once you cross the line of no-spending in-house and just using Clinton Foundation as fund raising org, one immediately realizes for that you do not need a foundation. Bill Clinton can always give a speech to raise money for a worthy cause. Given that Hillary Clinton is seeking Oval Office, the prudent course for Clinton Family is to shut down the foundation. If Hillary wins the election, she will get an opportunity to make the difference in the world much beyond what Clinton Foundation would do in its lifetime. Then why not make the seeking of this highest office 'clean, corruption-free and with legitimacy'? The specter of Feds coming after Clinton Foundation and shutting it down due to corruption / non-transparency while Hillary is in Oval Office; that will be a political disaster sapping all the political capital of President Hillary Clinton. Remember, when Bill Clinton was President; there was no Clinton Foundation. There is enough of baggage always there with Clintons, she would not need one more albatross of Clinton Foundation to sag her political energy.

You may ask, what about then Chelsea Clinton? What about her? Monies flowing to Clinton Foundation are not of her making. May be it will not be a bad idea for her to start a business or to make a corporate career to rake in millions first and then she can worry about giving those to charities. And if she is all driven by dedicating her life to volunteering and charitable work; then great, she can pick from 'n' number of other charitable trusts around the world to undertake this noble work. It does not have to be this Clinton Foundation nor Clinton Foundation as a lame and essentially illegitimate vehicle for 'good acts towards to humanity' in an attempt to mimic Royalty of Great Britain as the 'family in the business of doing good all over the world'.  

You really marvel at what a 'sleaze machine' Bill Clinton has created in his post-presidency years. Apart from hobnobbing global leaders and celebrities - Davos style - it is hard to note any high impact work done. We know that just getting global leaders together and seeping tea together, nothing much consequential happens. Global leaders respond only when their respective politics generate enough pressure to act. Bill Clinton should know it - how much did he care about 'kumbaya talks' with other world leaders when he was in the Oval Office? He allowed Rwanda Genocide and then regretted in his post-presidency years. What lack of new 'idea' prevented Bill Clinton from intervening in Rwanda Genocide? There was not any lack of new ideas, old ideas like stopping genocide by force were perfectly actionable - there was no enough domestic political pressure to intervene and Bill Clinton allowed thousands to get massacred. 

The world will not miss anything if Clinton Global Initiative and Clinton Foundation wind down. But the world would miss a lot in an embattled presidency of Hillary Clinton if she wins the Oval Office and the mess of Clinton Foundation pulls her down. Continued existence of Clinton Foundation is simply manifestation of a flagrant absence of basic political decency on part of Clinton Family.

(Republicans are not going to demand winding down Clinton Foundation. For them it is a never ending source of political troubles to their principle political opponent; a classic advantage not to be squandered in a competitive electoral politics.)


Monday, April 27, 2015

America - A Third World Country

Like many, I immigrated from India to USA. My teen ages and youth years were shaped by Mandal - Masjid Violence in India; a very sorry chapter of Modern India. Riots were  common, death of innocent people due to 'political rage' of few was not un-common; equally destruction of someone else's property to demonstrate political anger was common.

We all know riots is not a way to resolve political differences. Recently India has learnt that such 'riots' are no way to conduct a democratic polity. Ask swashbuckling Indian PM about Godhra - how damaging that can be.

Alas, in America we are acquiring such bad habits. There is simply no justification for riots which occurred when demonstrators for the death of one Freddie Gray turned violent. Yes, what happened to Freddie Gray is wrong. Yes, there is a large portion of White Police Force in many parts of USA who deal with Law and Order through the goggles of Racism. Yes, American Criminal Justice System is broken and is stacked miserably against Blacks and Minorities.

But riots and mayhem in streets are not answers to those problems.

May be no American Politician ignited and provoked such riots. That is good for the American Political Class. But now is the necessary and hard part - come down heavily in condemning such acts, support local police to control riots, hold local administration accountable in mopping up the mess as well as ask tough questions like why was Local Administration not prepared to avoid such riots in the first place knowing how volatile the crowd was likely to become? 

Sorry O'Malley - it is all going to mess your meticulously cultivated image of an efficient administrator. OK, Hillary; it is your turn to condemn this non-sense and step forward to articulate a rational policy response. President Obama, don't just stand; bring down the full force of Federal Government in holding those rioters accountable as well as taking further measures to diffuse the explosive racial situation which is developing in parts of this country. 

Anytime a political system becomes non-responsive to genuine grievances, we start to get irrational responses like riots. It is high time that American Political Class takes the problem of White Police force brutality against Blacks and minorities seriously. Reforms in Criminal Justice System are urgently needed and every American politician, especially those vying for White House, needs to be appraised for what policy prescriptions that person offers in this regard. That is the only credible way America can avoid problems unfortunately endured by suffering billions all across third world countries of this planet. 

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.