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. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Bangladesh - Intolerant Nation?

USA citizen blogger Avijit Roy was killed during his visit to Dhaka; possibly for his secular and atheist writings.

Bangladesh has been experiencing a paralysis of law and order for long time. It's political system is a mess and it's leaders hardly rise above the fry anytime. Still, in general it is less militant and radicalized compared to Pakistan. It has a strong cultural basis of Bengali language and reasonably left leaning, secular outlook. But many political parties have cultivated radical Islamic views as those suit their political purposes while occasionally such politics spills in taking innocent lives.

We have seen it in Paris and now we see it in Dhaka - secular views are under attack by misguided folks. One would think in the year of 2015 that would not be the case, but the evil and ignorance continue to live in this world. What is needed is political leadership across the spectrum, across countries resisting such suppression of freedom in the name of religion. Probably more important is public at large, society at large, demand from their leaders that they stop sheltering radical religious views harming innocent lives in the process. One way to do that is Bangladesh Society keeps demanding justice for the loss of Avijit's life. 

Bright minds from South Asia migrate all over the world to seek opportunities. These capable individuals scale achievements in areas of their expertise in migrant land and then on many occasions work back home to bring back their insights and experience to the land of origin. That is the process of 'osmosis and exchange of ideas' which would enrich societies back home. Avijit Roy with his wife were engaged precisely in one such endeavor but his life got cut short in between.

Bangladesh as a nation and Bangla as a society owe to the world that Avijit's murders do not go free and they are brought to the justice.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

America's IS Trap

Imagine Bush had not invaded Iraq in 2003 while Saddam toppled by Shiite Iraqis in some variation of Arab Spring which played out in Middle East in recent years. Imagine Iraq was presided by the same disastrous rule of Al-Maliki driving the country to precipice upon receiving blows after blows from IS coming from adjacent failed state of Syria which America never invaded. In that scenario, to what an extent Americans will be clamoring President Obama to intervene in Syria and Iraq? Al-Maliki essentially ripped out fragile stability purchased on backs of America's sacrifices in Iraq; and that Americans, especially Conservatives, want to restore back that scrambled egg - Iraqi stability. Americans feel obliged to retain fruits of their sacrifices. There is a feeling of squandering of that hard fought stability in Iraq. But Republicans and Hawks conveniently forget that whatever semblance of stability achieved it was because of the "pottery barn rule" - that Bush needlessly invaded Iraq and hence the responsibility came to USA in investing blood and treasury in Iraq to achieve peace. You remove that ill-fated decision in the first place and then one suddenly starts understanding remoteness of fight against IS and why it should not be America's sole responsibility to manage Iraq or for that matter to manage whole bunch of territories in this violent world. (One can very easily understand how Republicans would want to make the battle for Mosul as referendum on Obama Foreign policy; same way the battle for Kobani became test for Obama.)

As Greame Wood has argued in The Atlantic, the path on which IS has embarked upon - a literal interpretation of Kuran in an attempt to run Caliphate in 21st century; it can only end in one way: complete collapse of IS. The non-sustainability aspects of IS in today's world are simply too glaring, too many. How do you run a state today with no passport, no borders and no viable legal framework to honor property and contractual rights so as Capitalism can flourish in that state? Apart from these contradictory precepts IS wanting to adopt in today's world when rest of the world simply has no interest in accepting any of this non-sense; IS is simply creating too many enemies too fast to survive. Practically every other alternating interpretation of Kuran is unacceptable to IS resulting in a state which is permanently at war. No state in human history has survived which is permanently at war. This is especially true when resources at disposal of IS are paltry while all other competing forces are endowed with manifold resources. At some point, greater Ummah is also going to realize the nihilism insisted by IS and just the sheer survival instinct for those groups will start making them to work in ending IS. Shiite and Iran will have to confront IS for survival. Same goes for Wahhabi Islam of Saudi Arabia, Erdogon's Turkey and Kurds. Given this array of forces aligned against IS, question is why would America portray battle to capture Masul as Crusade? That is the "trap" American Conservatives want President Obama to enter into. They are framing this debate in same old Bush line of argument - "in order to save America here, you fight these terrorists there".

President Obama's failure is he is not making these things clear to Americans while more and more Americans get pulled into jingoistic case of owning the war against IS fully. In other words, he is letting his political opponents to set this debate as "to love America means to commit America's men & women" in the war theater of Iraq and Syria against IS. No one is talking here stopping active help by America in defeating IS. More needs to be done to bring together all those local and indigenous rivals of IS to finish it off. But America does not need to get involved in the vortex of IS ground fighting on the very first pretext. IS wants Crusade and it would love to have American foot soldiers in the battle. (Imagine a propaganda value it would unleash if it takes an American soldier as a prisoner of war with endless confessions on Internet...) Job of American leadership, contrary to the harakiri what these Republicans are advocating, is to avoid all these temptations and help natural, local forces to pull down IS.

Danger of other rogue attacks from terrorists outside the orbit of IS is ever present. Obama Administration needs to guard America from this danger. America needs to work with rest of the world in removing one of the cardinal causes giving rise to nihilism of IS - lack of governance and failed states. From Libya to Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sudan, Nigeria; all these Islamic states are hobbled by governance failure. Those failures are the ones which are giving rise to an interpretation of Kuran which provokes these societies to opt for culture of death as propounded by IS. America's interest lies in working on these longer term objectives while not wasting all precious resources on IS when IS will collapse due to its own contradictions and everyone else as its enemy.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Dems - Don't Attend Bibi Speech

Israeli PM is slated to give a speech to American Congress on March 3rd. Democrats in Congress should boycott this speech lock-stock barrel. Reasons are pretty clear:

- As is the norm, speeches by foreign leaders in USA are to be co-ordinated by White House since ultimately contemporary Foreign Policy is the responsibility of current White House occupant and he needs all the maneuvering space as possible to set the tone and contours of foreign policy. This includes highly visible communication act of a speech in the Congress. In this case, Israel PM did not co-ordinate his speech with Obama White House; implying a clear cut intention of undermining Obama Administration. There is no reason for Democrats in Congress to participate in this scheme.

- Speaker John Boehner could have guided Israeli Ambassador to White House when he breached this topic with him. He did not do it. Clearly Speaker was motivated by the partisan bickering and did not let go an opportunity to snub President Obama. Once the Bibi Speech became football, there is no reason for Democrats not to produce an equally partisan response to this speech.

- When Israeli elections are so nearby - March 17 - it would have been prudent for the newly elected Israeli PM to address the Congress to articulate Israel's concerns and strategies with a new mandate. A speech before the election is nothing but a blatant attempt by Bibi to use American Congress for his electoral prospects. (Once upon a time Barack Obama on the eve of 2008 election wanted Brandenburg Gate as prop for his Berlin Speech. Chancellor Merkel rightly rebuffed him. Obama White House did not get an opportunity to straighten up Bibi, but Democrats do that by having half of Congress empty on Bibi's Speech.)

- Israeli PM thinks he is waging a jihad (!) against Obama's dovish policy towards Iran and in the process defending Israeli's security. And to protect Israel, that is his argument, he would do anything, Implicit to this and his speech to Congress is he wants to make political life of Democrats harder by snatching their Jewish votes and Jewish Dollars in American elections. Democrats cannot be beholden to such an open interference by an Israeli politician. Israeli politicians, and Bibi in particular, want American politicians to keep aside America's national interest and serve misguided strategy of defending Israel at any cost. Time has come to break this nexus and stop making American Foreign policy hijacked by Israel. Rather than succumbing to propaganda of Israeli Conservatives that "these Democrats are leaving Israeli security high and dry"; what Democrats need to argue is that neither Bibi aggression against Iran is going to solve the issue nor America can concede it's sovereign foreign policy to a different country - even though it happens to be Israel.

- Israeli PM wants America to bomb Iranian nuke installations and basically undertake even more costly ground war against Khamenei's Iran than Bush's Iraq war. There is no reason for America to fall for this nor the blackmailing by Israel in this regard. Absence of Democrats to the Bibi speech will make an emphatic statement that not all Americans would simply allow other nations to dictate it's foreign policy with long term consequences

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Europe's Greece Problem

We are talking here 3 possibilities:

1. Greece defaults and abandons Euro.
2. Greece defaults but sticks with Euro.
3. Greece enters into some kind of compromise with Troika.

The thing is the middle option is not viable. But that is where Syriza is going - they essentially do not want to pay for the mountain of debt unless it is reduced with the full knowledge that minus the debt and interest payments, their current budget is balanced. That is; so far as 'cash' goes, it collects as much as it needs to pay for the immediate government expenses.

But alas the modern national economics is so simple. The problem is apart from 'cash' coming and going from government accounts, there is a basic thing called liquidity in the market so that private economy continues. Greek banks have around $160 Billions of deposits and so far 10% of those are withdrawn. Banks generally have anything between 5% to 20% as Capital (in various tiers) of their assets, that is loans. Most of the deposits are deployed, presumably in productive loans; including loans to state. These loans cannot be rescinded just because Bank's depositor's are asking money back, which they can indeed do at anytime at nominal fees. Hence, banking is essentially the business of confidence and right now ECB is underwriting that confidence for Greek banks.

Anytime insults from Greece exceeds the tolerance level of Chancellor Merkel, we are likely to see ECB pulling the rug under Greece, no matter how much smart Greece's finance minister is. Syriza folks are convinced of Paul Krugman Theory that austerity has to be avoided. There are couple of aspects of that theory:
- Will continuing to throw money at public sector workers, who in all likelihood are not generating any value, is still economy saving 'demand generating' spending?
- And when all of this marginal money to be pumped as stimulus (remember, Greece is primary budget surplus only on the current lower state revenue, it would not be having any additional money which Syriza wants to throw as per it's mandate) is all going to come from Troika, what does Greece have to give as 'collateral' to these loans? Especially since there is no creditworthiness left for Greece in international capital market.

It would have been a different matter if Syriza and Greece political class, as well as Greek national will, had some smart ideas to direct 'stimulus' money in more productive ways rather than just throwing it on redundant  public sector employees. May be Krugman's point is it does not matter - the goal is to generate demand and if it means 'spraying the money'; so be the case.

Because Greece is not printing its own currency, its hose to 'spray this money' is controlled from Frankfurt. That is the fundamental difference. Bernanke Fed could print Trillions of Dollars at will and allowed Obama Administration to spray it effectively and so as to take USA out of Great Recession.

With Greece, Syriza mandate is NOT to choose the option number 1 i.e. default and go for it's currency. Greeks do not want to give up Euro since they do not trust their own politicians in managing their own currency or stewardship of their monetary policy.

It may be all right to 'win' an election by boasting that Greece would not pawn its 'sovereignty' to Troika and it may be indeed the case that Troika at some level increased misery of Greece; but in absence of any hard collateral and willingness to shun bombastic rhetoric; acceding to Troika demands is the only choice. Indeed that could look like 'selling of Greece sovereignty' to Syriza's voters. But after all the lender has more vested interest in getting back her money or avoid Spain and Italy springing up these ever growing demands of debt write offs. Keeping this natural alignment of the lender intact and compromising with Trioka seem to be most natural choices here for Greece. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Mitt Romney's Honorable Decision

In finally deciding against his third run at White House, Mitt Romney made a wise decision. He has correctly diagnosed that 2016 will be all about pulling up America's vast and increasing under class of economically left behind (essentially most of the America). But for him; the candidate of 1%, the candidate for 'makers' rather than 'takers'; to make a swift turn to populist economic programs would have been very hard in the third run. Besides, there is this 'old car smell' and unusually large field of Republican Wannabes. 

For America, Mitt's arguments are done. There is much 'less new' to come out. We would not miss anything. Rather a room is made for others and new arguments. In that sense Mitt did a service to America.