Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lokpal Bill and India in ditch

Seems like Opposition Parties in India have taken a leaf from Senate Minority Leader McConnell - scorched earth policy when it comes to pulling down ruling party politically. Dr. Singh once again lost the plot and failed to pass even a diluted Lokpal bill. Anna Hazare is not on board for the government's version and even Anna misses what is really needed here - forcing judicial systems to function as intended at all levels. In absence of that, everything is substandard. Failure and incompetence of the government in passing these modest reforms are simply going to feed the overall gloom in Indian Economy.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Land without Justic

"...the murder case of LN Mishra, former chief minister of Bihar and right-hand man of Indira Gandhi, is dragging on 37 years...

The corruption case against Sukh Ram, former telecom minister, has gone on for 16 years.

 In the category “enforcement of contract” , India ranks 182out of 183 countries! It is the second worst in the world.

An outrageous 1,500 persons died in police custody last year, and only the na├»ve will believe that these were mostly natural deaths. 

To put it bluntly, India is a land without justice. So, Hazare’s belief that a powerful Lokpal with investigative powers will stem corruption is dead wrong. Unless we have root-and-branch judicial reform to speed up processes and verdicts, the new Lokpal will simply increase the already formidable backlog of incomplete cases in the courts. Unless there is justice for all cases, we will not get justice in corruption cases."


Aiyar has been arguing for long why Hazare's anti-corruption drive is essentially just a run around the core problem - no working judiciary. One can understand that Indian Politicians would not take any interest in changing all this since they are full party to this state of affairs. Career politicians benefit enormously - personally & politically - in keeping this totally dysfunctional system as is. These same politicians would once in while do some political white wash by sacking few ministers here and there, but basically there are no fundamental changes there.

Really sad part is people who otherwise can change India - Anna Hazare and his followers in millions - also in a sense miss the whole point. Same goes with those few politicians who want to make some real change - Dr. Singh or Rahul Gadhi and others. All of them miss the core issue of total absence of functioning courts in India at all levels. As Aiya puts it so well, unless it is addressed; Team Hazare in unlikely to move the battle against corruption decisively.

Sometime back Aiyar listed 3 sectors which drive maximum corruption in India - land & real estate, mining and finally defense contracts. This rings a bell when one reads:

"In today's China, the abilities to buy and sell real estate and to win government contracts are among the greatest drivers of wealth, and it's those who are already wealthy and well-connected who have access to these opportunities."


This means both these economies - China and India - are still hobbled by transparency and lack of basic contract enforcement of through local judicial system. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Media Notes

Here is the last word in Global Bond Market - Bill Gross of PIMCO and our young blogger Matt does not hesitate to take on him! Now, that is some courage. What do I think of it? Matt still does not have the currency of credibility when he talks about all electronic no cash money; but for sure he is doing what a true blogger needs to do - open minds of readers.

And then here you have a true Economist single handedly carrying the burden of pointing out what is truly scary with this country and what is terribly wrong with America.

Both led the road in truth telling nevertheless; regardless of how 'out of fashion' things are what they say about.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

DPRK

As I am dumb down with senseless things going on in the world and cannot make much sense of what is happening, here is one thing I found very interesting - a Japanese magician invited for Kim's funeral! Very funny.

I do not read much into this news since there is indeed nothing much to read. Eventually what all it implies is that the new young ruler will continue father's policies for a while, he may attempt to be more strident from time to time to silence his military as he is inherently likely to be disposed towards Liberalization; just because of his age.

West should basically 'pamper' him and should not punish his regime for the decisions he would have inherited. On the other hand if every decision of his which loosens his father's grip is awarded lavishly; a strong constituency for the change will be created in North Korea.

My bets - West (USA, S. Korea, Japan and their aligned powers like Australia, Europe, etc.) would take this bet and as it starts succeeding, China may throw a wrench just to keep the status-qua. But, we will see; things are still in infancy.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Great Warrior Finally Puts Down the Sword

I am not aware of any great and very public atheist than Christopher Hitchens. The guy used to go where very few mortals / thinkers would dare to go. What a great life!

Rest in peace Christopher Hitchens.

Update - Of reactions and obituaries I am going through, I found Joe Klein's reaction most apt:

" but more, I worry that Hitch is taking with him a world, a world of contemplative reading and writing - the very opposite of what I am doing right now, posting an immediate reaction to his death on this blog....We need more such, and left with less."


But may be Joe need not worry so much. This very blogging, tweeting, Facebooking have come off age - we just have to see what revolutionary changes all these have done in Arab world and at times helped even a vast country like Russia to coalesce together to attack what ails in that society. Changing - for sure we are; but equally potent opportunities are present for Thinking & Thoughts to make our life better. We just have to be as courageous and honest as like Hitch. 

Friday, December 09, 2011

NAFTA is the way?

Reading these commentaries, it is clear that what Niall Fergusson and his friends on Wall Street Journal and other Blue House Clubs along two sides of Atlantic wished is coming true - UK is on way to get booted out of EU.

For once one has to agree with French President Sarkozy - you cannot keep on opting out of a deal and still continue to insist on having a say on that deal. Besides UK never had a strong case for objecting Continental nations  about how Euro business to be conducted when it continues to keep it's own Pound. 

UK's decision of staying out of Euro and sticking with Pound has been a great call. It just has to continue to build upon that. Going forward, Frankfurt will be the city of Finance as far as Europe goes. City of London for sure will suffer from that loss as well as UK economy from potentially market loss to Continental Europe if the divorce of UK-EU is complete. Such a separation may be inevitable as Germany tries to reuse EU institutions (wisely, instead of adding new institutions to already crowded place) making UK's involvement more and more problematic in any of these EU institutions. 

As Asian, Arabian & Turkey Market develop dramatically and trains start reaching to Berlin from Beijing; Germany will continue to pull Continental Europe more and more towards Middle Earth - China and land locked countries of Asia. That makes sense for Germany, for Europe and globally too. Given that, bridging over Atlantic to join brethren of Canada, USA and Mexico may not be 'bridge too far'. What is not to like there? Most speak English and each one of these countries continue to print their own currency. If Obama overtures across Pacific for a FTP with Asian (san China) countries succeed; even more access to Market.

These Europeans (especially UK) have been living for centuries practically for one single thing - access to Market. If your Left Side (Continental Europe) is squeezing you, move to Right (towards North America); that should be the operating model when UK faces the world. Why bother  endless rounds of negotiations and labyrinth of hulking Continental Europe, especially when it is not clear how all these deals would solve the European Crisis? May be joining NAFTA is the way for UK. 

Friday, December 02, 2011

Desperation

Reading George Will warning for any coronation in GOP nomination race, 'desperation' is the word which comes to the mind. He knows frailties of both candidates - flip-flops in case of Romney and past baggage in case of Gingrich. Relatively it is much more easy for Obama to defeat any of these two candidates and Will knows that. I say desperation because on this background to hold any hope for Rick Perry, whose candidacy has failed to arouse Americans in any ways, is non-sense and that is where Will is going because of his blindness to see obvious faults of Perry and rest of the candidates.

If it were for Mitch Daniels that Will was rooting, then things would have been different. Even Chris Chistie one can understand if one ignores his baseless bombast like this. But reality is, the current GOP field is hopeless and none of the nominees have any coherent thinking to take America forward. At least it does not appear sitting here in December 2011. So to argue 'hold on for Romney or Gingrich' but not to have any consequential candidate in the wing is nothing short of desperation.

Well, with Will's idealogical blindness; I am happy to see him in this state. Granted I risk possibly Will having the 'last laugh' on the night of November 6, 2012. But we will see how things develop, today at least Will seems more in a hole. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Policy over Politics

Diagnose is right - Obama choose 'changing policy over changing politics'. But Ezra ignores the reality that possibly very few of these 'policy changes' will in the end start making 'real change / difference' in lives of people. At that point the call of 'going for policy over politics' hardly matters because even if it was true, the policy did not hold up. Just imagine Supreme Court turning down ObamaCare or monthly reminder of over 9% unemployment rate.

The other question Ezra ignores is that given this predicament of 'choosing policy over changing politics' what can Obama offer for 2012 election? What offering from Obama at that point can convince Americans to vote Obama second time rather than going for trying another guy? The only way he can do it is by:
- completely removing 'Nebraska Cornhusker' possibilities by way of coming clean about exactly what policies he would enact in 'full transparency' if elected and
- to ask Americans a mandate with usable Congressional majorities to execute and deliver the policy charter.

 In other words - to run as a parliamentary leader campaigning with a detailed party election manifesto (with all gory policy details) and to fight for election of each foot soldier - member of Congress - in the process.

Otherwise what other Democrats are saying will turn out to be true.

Update - Looks like I am wrong with this month's unemployment rate, which is below 9%. But neither Obama Administration pats itself nor anyone serious can ignore the long path America has to go before most Americans wanting to work are gainfully employed.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

JFK, Hollywood and American Politics


I barely resisted yesterday talking about JFK while writing a post about Marilyn Monroe. But today after reading Ross Douthat's classic column about 'myths of JFK' I could not agree any more with Ross about that - JFK Presidency was not that great for Americans after all. As like with passage of time folks are understanding the lasting impact of LBJ Presidency (legacy of Medicare and signing of Civil Rights Laws) despite the humiliation brought by the Vietnam war; people will start realizing that indeed JFK was not that great and he was the genesis of Vietnam quagmire. Douthat's lists all of the consequential shortcomings of JFK presidency. Except for unequivocal support for a 'space program' (which Douthat forgets to point out); there are few things of lasting importance to which JFK contributed.

And then there was Marilyn Monroe - it is hard to ignore circumstances surrounding her relationship with the married Catholic President. It would not be a surprise to learn Marilyn Monroe expected the president to leave his beautiful wife, kids all that to marry a tinsel town sex symbol; all while being in the White House! That was how much she had been unreasonable / unhinged in her expectations from others. Not that such an unreasonableness on Marilyn's part absolve what JFK rumored to start - adulterous relationship while being in the White House (which in the end culminates in 'that spot' on the blue dress of Monica Lewinsky, all by Democrats). Regardless of whether JFK had relationship with her or not, there is no doubt that JFK didn't find it anything abhorrible to use some Hollywood 'stardust' and 'flesh' for his own political means. 

But of course, it is not only Democrats who have used Hollywood for their own purposes. When it came to Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger, GOP did find utility in Hollywood glamour too.

This all means, until American Politics learn to stay away from Entertainment Industry and not to exploit publicity of practitioners of that industry for their own political means; we will continue to have this collusion of interests and even flesh. In that respect, Americans have grounds to be satisfied with recent presidencies of George Bush and Barack Obama. As Douthat implies, unless America buries properly all this JFK and Marilyn Monroe hoopla, we would not have emotionally cleansed. Canny politician as he is, Obama Presidency would not let die this JFK mythology till November 2012 election as he still needs votes in droves of likes of Frank Rich, the baby boomers infatuated by JFK who still struggle to see beyond even after so many years and acquired wisdom due to aging. For sure, Obama will not do anything to encourage this 'Camelot business'; least because that will be a unflattering comparison with his own performance in the first term. But come January 2013 and if he is reelected, it is in Obama's interest to take Democrats fully out of the JFK land once and for all. For a Republican President, things would become easier to drop these JFK references from Public Mind.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hollywood in love with Hollywood


My Week With Marilyn

B++



Hollywood turns to its own stars to produce new character movies as movie business is going away so dramatically from real life characters. Invasion of computer gimmicks on movie business is so complete by now. In that sense, this movie is refreshing and nice. It is neither attempting to state any larger, polemical points nor at the same time is not a wash like 'Black Swan' which was yet another movie about the entertainment business. If at all, the movie misses an opportunity to indict Hollywood culture of 'show business and culture of flesh'.  It does not tell effectively how hard it has been for Hollywood to give up the male chauvinism and the road traveled since then has carcasses of lives of many talented individuals; Ms. Monroe being the prominent one. 

Life of Ms. Monroe had been a complex concoction of inferiority complex, horribly troubled childhood, enormous talent surging to achieve greater artistic achievements on a newly maturing medium, un-channeled rebellion against the darker ways of Hollywood - actresses as a sex symbol only & hegemony of studio production houses; and never ending quest of finding so called 'true love'. Neither mundane compromises needed to sustain any relationship were there in books of Ms. Monroe, nor she ever wanted to make the personal call to quit Hollywood glamour entirely (she did quit Hollywood at times) having developed the taste of using her hyper sexuality for her own purposes regardless of how un-balanced emotional demands were drawn on others. In a sense that life was nothing but narcissism and unwillingness to stop exploiting emotional gratifications made possible by blurring life 'off the screen with life on the screen'. 

May be I am getting too much swayed by the story of protagonist Collin Clark having seen how 'like a violin Ms. Monroe plays' a young life of 21 years youth. May be that is the success of this movie. But bringing audience this far but not crossing the line in explaining how exactly this business of 'exploiting tragedies of one talented individual' for the purposes of titillating millions while filling coffers of Movie Financiers; that is a disappointment of this otherwise well crafted movie. The movie is clean, plain and a simple story with limited span rendered in beautiful images and capable performances by most of the crew. Watching all that is joy and worth your time.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Waiting for Elections

That is the real message of the failed super committee. Too bad that like Spaniards, we cannot have timely elections and give a clear verdict to overcome this impasse. That is the problem with American System, on the background of stark events, citizenry does not get a quick opportunity to react. All of these shenanigans of our politicians, voters have to remember; accumulate all this happening (for example Supreme Court judgement about ObamaCare sometime in 2012); and then vote. And when we vote, we do not give  a clear mandate. In a sense, failure of super committee is failure of Americans to give clear verdict in elections.

Some would argue that Americans did give 2010 mandate to Tea Party and Tea Party is doing its job of insisting on cuts rather than any tax increase. The challenge for Democrats is to demonstrate how this urge to resist tax increases at any cost is fundamentally giving a short shrift to core 'economic justice and fairness' we expect or we want in our politics. We all want everybody to pay the fair share as well as take their own responsibility. 

May be 'rich' and GOP are opposing tax increase because their present contributions are overwhelmingly getting transferred to 'have not'. The need may be for Democrats to articulate their plans about how they would rationalize this 'wealth transfer' once the inherently 'rigged system for rich' is corrected. That is the challenge for Obama and Democrats and they are late to this game. 

What about GOP Leadership? Americans may feel like giving a chance to a new Republican guy in the White House. But all of the GOP candidates carry 'so much baggage' and are so blind because of ideology that none of them see the core reason of a political power - to be an instrument in bringing social and economic justice. For all these Republicans, it hardly registers that 'rich' have been getting far better share in this country and GOP essentially has been protecting rich really well at the cost of everyone else. In any case, fighting for social or economic justice has never been the forte of Republicans, we all know their history.

So this is where we are - Americans do not have any capacity to turn on heat on their recalcitrant politicians and then these politicians get away; we all are waiting for that election in November 2012. During the year, the same issues, same trench ware-fare and same gridlock will continue. Everybody will fight for  only a marginal advantage and in the end this marginal advantage would be treated as a mandate by one party to foist a dramatic change on the other party. Then the vicious cycle would repeat. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wonders of Demographics and Globalization

IKEA is the place to find boyfriends and girlfriends. 


...So what IKEA does is laudable, and we wish IKEA's business will prosper. I am thankful for IKEA's tolerance toward us."

Actually, IKEA's tolerance has pretty much run out.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Deaf and Blind GOP

Will Paul Ryan, Michele Bachmann spare some 10 minutes to listen to Arun Maira? Well, na; these GOP folks are so ideologically driven that anyone who does not agree with their unproven theory of 'give more tax cuts to rich so jobs will be created' is simply Socialist and Communist!

Listening Arun Maira, the whole demeanor of this person dramatically contrasts with bombastic 'protect rich at any cost' crowd of GOP field. No wonder RNC Chief is getting the message, but until GOP gives up these suicidal policies; there is no well being of America possible in hands of GOP. 

I have not read Maira so I cannot comment on the theoretical foundation of his articulation; but his assertion that humanity needs to think beyond Socialism and Capitalism rings a chord. It is also clear, and I am sure Maira would be aware of this, that Scandinavian model is not applicable to large countries like USA, China and India. He is fully aware of still developing economic structure of India and China compared to USA. In fact, more accommodating and global conscientiousness implicit in his view starkly contrast with overall avaricious attitude of Americans. GOP actively promotes a philosophy where Americans think that they have a birthright to consume this earth as they want, regardless of if there is anything left for others. There is such a strong undercurrent of 'hell with the world, we are Americans, we are superior and hence we will tread this Earth any which ways we want' in the entire GOP philosophy. (Ross Douthat's latest column comes to mind - GOP wants to actively promote a feeling of 'raising to this greater call of duty for humanity' while basics of sharing and caring this only earth are completely ignored.)

The standard answer from Conservatives is Americans earn this right because they protect Liberty and Freedom and have been following 'rule of law' for over two centuries. Moreover, when the world is in trouble, not only Americans work fearlessly to 'bring that wall down Mr. Gorbachev'  but ready to shed blood to bring Freedom in places far away (Iraq)  and ready to take Trillions of Dollar debt in this fight (even if it means we do not leave any money for our own well being and education back home). Well China, India, Brazil and many other economies of this world do not own any 'blood' to USA. Having been Sheriff of the World for few decades, neither America has capability to carry out those self-imposed duties nor rest of the world would tolerate those any further. So Conservatives better keep their 'arrogance' of American Sacrifices with themselves and mind their own business.

That is the exact thinking - mind your own business and be a good citizen of the global system - that is  the approach a healthy political system needs to have today. This means you do not insist upon American style Capitalism for rest of the world. Finance dominated Capitalism as followed in this country is not even good for Americans themselves. Not for nothing practically two third of Americans think that the 'game is rigged for haves' in this country and hence majority thinks that children are likely to have less prosperous life than its own generation. Answer to this predicament is not a feral Libertarian Cry (that counter intuitively Cultural Conservatism will come back in times of increased inequality); but to eliminate ideological blindness. Deeply sought 'personal responsibility' by Conservatives neither  comes by protecting rich nor sacrificing societal investments like Infrastructure, Education, Science & Technology for tax cuts which do not work. Looking at GOP presidential debates and GOP's Congressional actions, it is clear that GOP is deaf and blind to what is happening in  world at large when it comes to policies to address our entrenched problems. (Anyways it is the season of Thanksgiving, so no wonder Boehner is discovering virtues of taking care of 'have nots'.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Euro

I am very much afraid that the euro zone is about to plunge us into phase two of the global financial crisis--and that as with the Great Depression, phase two may be even worse than the dismal years we've just endured. 


In search of fairness, we may all get a lot more justice than any of us really wants. 




Martin Wolf says that the eurozone is unlikely to survive. Paul Krugman is saying the same thing.I’ve been saying it too. But one thing’s for sure: a euro breakup is emphatically not priced in to markets. So fasten your seatbelts: it could come sooner than you think. 



It is pretty much clear that we are fast approaching this point of 'no return' on Europe. Some of the observations for a common person are:

- Both Greece and Italy are unlikely to get any money from any international lenders in market or from ECB on a sustained basis, even though here and there money will be available for borrowing. This would mean you are looking at hard default of these states at some point with grave consequences for the people of these countries. Shenanigans of politicians in these countries would have convinced people of these countries, other Europeans and world at large that capacity of Politics of these nations to face their own problems is dramatically below the threshold needed to get out of this crisis.

- ECB may try to lend from time to time. But unless it is practically able to cross over the 'ultimatum' of Germans in not lending too much (since after all entire credibility of ECB is based on German strength); in the end it may not prove to be sufficient.

- As Italy goes down, France would start looking shakier. The Politics of the country is alive and in a bid to address Market pressure, it will continue to push down more and more draconian measures on French People and Economy in order to save it's AAA rating. Any time that rating goes down, Euro based on Franco-German strength gets another mortal blow. In French bid to save its AAA rating, austerity and taxation would continue harshly crippling growth prospect and bringing down Europe further. With the near certain ascend of Socialists by mid-next year in the French Politics, it is even less probable that necessary 'realignment' of generous state entitlements of French People with diminishing scope for further taxes while a requirement to compete globally; all that can be achieved. In other words, Politicians will continue to fail in being frank with their own people.

Question is are there things which USA, China and rest of the world can do to their respective economies to reduce this impeding shock and will there be necessary political consensus to achieve that. With highly partisan politics, USA does not seem to have that political strength. Republicans will continue to point the need of austerity and no new taxation (their agenda) so America does not go along the path of Europe whereas Democrats will continue to raise the issue of 'fairness' like Germans. It will be interesting to watch if Obama and Democrats sense an opportunity to  strike 'any deal' with GOP to give boost to Dollar as one of the few 'standing Western Political Systems' capable of facing its issues head-on. We will not have to wait too far, in couple of weeks or so Congressional Super Committee will have to speak to the nation about where they are and we will know.

Just as after the WWII, intact American Industrial base gave an edge to American Economy over recovering Europe, there seems to be an opportunity for American Political System to project the last man standing economy of the West of certain size. (There will be many non-European Western Economies which will be still intact like UK, Sweden, Canada, etc.) We will see whether American Politicians size this opportunity or not, though chances are dim.


Sunday, November 06, 2011

USA and Oil

Times of India contributor SA Aiyar has got it right, USA is about to become nearly self reliant for the consumption of carbon based energy sources. Question is whether Democrats and Obama are ready to articulate this possibility in the context of national interests. Yes, it is contrary to what Science is saying that carbon based energy sources for sure contribute to global warming. But the issue is 'national interest' which need not be aligned to 'global interest' for a while. Eventually all of Humanity needs to worry about Global Warming. But until you have global consensus about this issue, national interests trump other considerations.

In other words, the choice in case of 'Keystone Pipeline' is clear - USA to accept the Canadian proposal and approve the pipeline. I guess Obama White House is simply waiting for Thanksgiving weekend or Christmas Weekend to declare the pipeline approval - dog days when Media attention is minimal. Unfortunately that is how Politics work whether you like it or not.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Problem of Pakistan

You have one of most accomplished journalistic minds in America on this story about Pakistan. It is a lengthy article, but giving full justice to the topic and hence you never go way until you finish it.

As far as concretely doable actions by America, two theses come out of it in the end:
- Kind of criticism of Obama Administration policy in according 'privileged status' for the goal of decimating Al-Qaeda over the longer term issue of stability in Pakistan and security of its nuclear weapons; and
- continually neglected aspect of developing 'relations' with various parts of Pakistani Society in a way to help nurture institutional nuggets within that society so that multi-decade decadence of Pakistani Society and State overall is interrupted.

In other wards, we are talking bit of 'soft nation building' by USA in Pakistan. Hillary Clinton would have been the most ideal person to achieve this objective, but so far it seems neither she is involved that much in these tasks nor Obama Administration wants to invest any more than what is politically lucrative - again simply according higher priority for 'kinetics about terrorists' while ignoring what is happening in Pakistani Society at large.

I do not have much hope in this regard. Americans are not good in this kind of 'soft nation building'. We are not talking larger budget outlay for USA Aid to Pakistan, but greater involvement by American Governmental Machinery to kick start private sector level engagements and to provide meaningful inputs for better governance at all levels in Pakistan.

As far as India goes, it is an accomplishment of some sort that considering high caliber & credibility of authors of this article; there are no disparaging references to Indian foreign policy responses. This means disciplined and calmer foreign policy adopted by India is generally in good taste of global opinions and I as well do not see much to fault there since such a foreign policy is fundamentally helpful to protect core interests of India. Of course, there are things like greater South Asian market integration, opening up Indian educational institutes to Pakistanis and in general larger contribution to common projects helping all South Asian countries; all that will help and India should surely undertake that. But the basic temperament India is displaying in this relationship is on the right track. 

Friday, November 04, 2011

Another Conservative Nonsense

If one believes, as Republicans do and evidence suggests, that Obama’s policies have made a bad situation terrible, then why wouldn’t the GOP try to block him? 


Does she have any proof? But alas, punditry on Right is nothing but making 'false statements' as self-evident. She further adds

Americans are an optimistic, generous lot, confident in their ability to weather difficulties and invent solutions. Ingenuity is in their bones. 

Is she standing for an office or what? Making such platitude, self-congratulatory statements is a great past time for American Politicians. Part of American Exceptionalism on Right is nothing but indulging in 'superiority complex'. And then we Americans miss the opportunity to 'get real' and face our situation squarely.

When is American Elite going to understand that this century is no more fiefdom of American dominance and there are many more societies in this world which are equally capable, competent and from where America needs to learn? Americans simply have to get their house in order, for sure GOP Nihilism does not seem to be the way though for that.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Blind Opposition on NYT Pages

There is no other word than to say 'crap' about David Brook's latest column talking about Blue Inequality and Red Inequality. It is utter non-sense with no basis to reality.

1. First of all, both of these (Blue Inequality and Red Inequality) are fictitious notions which Brooks toss around with no basis in any professional research or substantive basis.

2. South Korean President Lee recently came out and mentioned that he would actively discourage youth of his country to go for college education and would rather prefer them to opt for vocational training which will enable them to get jobs while industry also getting appropriately skilled employees. Washington Post Editorial went on taking President Obama to task on this basis for his relentless emphasis on college education. Brooks entirely neglect all of those arguments. Besides, Germany is famous for her vocational training based educational system and coupled with industry - state/union societal compact has fared much better than many other advanced economies in weathering out the current recession. Again all these things do not exist in Brooks world.

3. On what basis Brooks assume that Red Inequality and Blue Inequality are not overlapping? Those with College education in rural area too are in the top 1% of rural / Red areas. So where is the beef? Or Brooks just want to take his readers on a ride with no basis?

4. Why only Liberal Art College degree holders complaining in these Urban areas about Blue Inequality? Are Engineers stupid not to see the havoc created by loop sided Financial Types in this country? 

5. Where does Austin, Texas fit in this categorization? Brooks does not see any Blue Inequality in that city? What non-sense does he talk?

6. What has State to do about reducing Red Inequality after Republicans having banned all of social issues from Governmental intervention? These same Republicans want to abolish Education Department at Federal Level, they do not want Federal Government to get involved in student grants. So why Red Inequality is the business of State then? Do your social revolution and solve that.

7. Basically Blue Inequality is nothing but about fair taxation and 'sell out of Congress to Financial Industry'. Let us keep things simple, clean and focused. That is what Occupy Wall Street Protest is about. Talk about that. Tell either it is a rational protest or give your arguments about why it is incorrect;  no point doing an end run around that. That is same as like GOP Presidential Candidates who assume that we Americans do not have any 'gray matter' left and we are just stupid to accept any 'crap' what Brooks would write.

Amazing that NYT Editorial oversight would allow such meaningless and false column. If you want solidly balanced and Conservative columns / opinions - Brooks should read what his collegoue Ross Douthat writes. He has been producing one after the other phenomenally 'cut the chase' kind of breathtakingly honest and insightful columns. Brooks - he is just wasting Web Real Estate for NYT. (Even former NYT Editor Bill Keller is writing so well now that he does not have to carry the burden of being a 'liberal mouth piece'.)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Indian Grand Prix

With the successful completion of the inaugural Indian Grand Prix at Buddha International Circuit, India kind of overcomes blemishes it got when it botched Commonwealth Games. The contrast between  government run affairs and private organization cannot come any starker than this.

The foray of Formula One racing in South Asia will only go on ascend from this seminal point. With solid young population, the racing extravaganza makes commercial sense even though India at large continues to be beset by lack of basic roads, transportation and amenities. It is just the reality of Global Capitalism that while poverty is present in huge pockets of the country; India's privileged class in urban areas will continue its assimilation with global lifestyle. May be Formula One racing and new types of sports are insurances in Indian System so as privileged youth does not get too much agitated with contradictions of Indian Society.

To see Sachin Tendulkar waving a checker flag to signal end of a race without any incident is a relief. Kudos to drivers and private - state partnership to pull off a race where safety measures worked. (Just couple of weeks back there was carnage at a similar event in Las Vegas.) One just wishes India continues on this path of fruitful engagement between state and private sector. 

(I was curious why the name Buddha to the circuit, but once I saw the powerful Indian Politician Mayawati handing over the prize cup to Vettel, it kind of explained....)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Game is Rigged

Our Congress today is a forum for legalized bribery.

Why are there 61 members on the House Committee on Financial Services? So many congressmen want to be in a position to sell votes to Wall Street.

-- Tom Friedman, New York Times

Looks like that is the realization which is slowly sipping through America. Occupy Wall Street may fold soon, but American Public is going in that direction. Not for nothing, a new rock start gets minted on Left.

I believe Republicans sense this risk, but do not consider it important enough to alter their game plan of continuing to shelter 1% of this country. Kind of how Obama Administration did not alter the game plan when Tea Party was nascent. But I doubt how long Republicans would be able to sustain a tone deaf approach to American reality of inequality. Sense is time is running out for this policy of protecting rich under a squarely challenged premise of rich creates jobs in this country.  No, rich are not the reason for new jobs, it is Demand; and it will not come unless policies are ready to address the stark income imbalance.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Working Government?

Looks like someone is actually doing a job in Federal Government. 

Don't bother telling your Tea Party brothers and sisters. By definition they do not believe in such things. Just be happy that sometimes you may reap benefits of working Government.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Adult Play by Chancellor

All along Chancellor Merkel had been going out of her ways to lower Market expectations. It was a no brainier play, but important thing is she did that. Because if things did not pan out she would not have lost lot while if there is a pleasant surprise that will boost her politically. Seems like EU folks are going on the positive side - some reasonable deal instead of total failure.

(Are Speaker Boehner and Obama going to follow the same technique for the coming Debt deal to achieve 1.2 Trillion Savings?)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

How Herman Cain will Help American Politics

As Herman Cain starts getting  limelight, his 9-9-9 Tax plan is going to invoke more scrutiny. It will be just a matter of time before competing Republican contestants start pointing out the total retrogressive nature of this policy snake oil - favoring rich at the cost of poor. After all majority rich people may be backing GOP, but majority of GOP voters are not rich. It will not be just Eric Cantor, but many more in Republican Party will be forced to talk about poverty and income distribution in this country. That is the whole point Occupy Wall Street Protester would have driven home by then. So stupidity of one Herman Cain is forcing finally GOP to talk about issues it wanted to avoid so long - totally destructive consequences like income inequality of today's global capitalism. Frank-Dodd Law was one way Congress reacted to constrain 'too much destructive creation' of Wall Street and these bright lights of GOP want to repeal this Law instead repairing it any further! All that will start surfacing prominently as Herman Cain exposes himself more and that will be Herman's great contribution to American Politics.

Frantic Pace of Bachmann Non-sense

So it was wrong for Obama to intervene in Libya whereas it was all Kosher for Bush to intervene in Iraq! And as far as Iraq goes, her theory is USA should have joined Sadr in demanding compensations. Forget about Bush who never bothered about American Treasury or she never bothered to introduce any bill in Congress during Bush times to ask the same while America's Iraq Occupation was bleeding tax payers money; but she thinks that is what Obama should have done as well as continue to keep American forces there!

Seems like there is no limit to the non-sense of these GOP candidates. And oh ya, we Americans are stupid to tolerate all this for so long. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Classic Pol Business

That is what a seasoned politician does - when you are riding high on your triumphs; you declare how you are going to remove your hand under the rock i.e. release the 'tough news'. With his Libya victory lap, President Obama was in a perfect position to clear the stuff for Iraq and that is what he did.

With Hillary rattling cages in Pakistan and daggers coming out for Iran; this Presidency has lot of juice left to accomplish some far reaching consequences in remaining months of this term. On domestic policy front President Obama may look like 'been done' or he may be hostage to vagaries of European Politicians as far as protecting fragile American Economy from Global Shocks goes; but when it comes to National Security, this Presidency already looks stellar and has substantial room to achieve greater heights. I am sure that must be GOP's nightmare for 2012 Election. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

EU Rescue - $3 Trillion Price Tag

That would give for sure a sticker shock to EU Politicians. But that is what Bloomberg says EU would need to save itself and the world economy. I think today Bloomberg News has more credibility than EU. This would mean anything less than this figure would disappoint the market. Chances are that EU is very unlikely to accept such a large figure, especially when USA with EU keeps rejecting BRIC plan of shoring IMF. Rejection of BRIC plan to beef up IMF is nothing but a power play, it is a reflection of West's Colonial hangover. Unfortunately all this means more pains along the line even if American Economy is holding up.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Why America does not believe Global Warming

I think Elizabeth Rosenthal circles wagons around and fails to come to grips with the reality that USA is the third largest producer of Oil and Gas in the world after Russia and Saudi Arabia. Given that, attitude of America is really to be compared with Russia and Saudi Arabia and not with EU which hardly digs any carbon fuels. Within Europe, let us see how one of the most progressive countries - Norway - reacts as it continues to hit jackpots of huge oil finds.

Point is, education and knowledge do not make societies enlightened. In the end, it is all about money and vested interests. GOP in USA just happens to carry waters for Oil and Gas Industry. I have no doubt in my mind, if Democrats were popular in Texas and Democrats were to carry waters for Oil and Gas Industry; all these progressives would have got same 'fits' when anyone would start complaining about global warming.

Given this political economic reality, the deal on the table is - defend Koch Brothers, Exxon Mobile and Carbon spouting American Airlines against the global on-slaughter; but within American Economy make these guys to pay for. In other words, fight 'class warfare' for these players on the global stage but on national stage make them pay for the 'class warfare'.

As usual suspicion is Obama Administration would be doing only the first part and not the latter. During 2009 Great Recession Times, Obama Administration saved Banks with TARP; and completely lost an opportunity to make these Banks pay for (for example across the board mortgage deal). Fear is same thing would happen here - it will let free ride Oil & Gas Industry while it carries the 'cross for that industry' in the name of protecting and nurturing jobs. COS Daley - where are you? Would you mind doing something here?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Inane Politics of Democrats in Senate

"Nothing quite illustrates the depth of Barack Obama's weakness in Washington better than the painfully public defeat the Senate handed him Tuesday by blocking his signature American Jobs Act.

The defeat was a sharp rebuke for Obama that amounted to a vote of no confidence on the economic policies of recovery spending that he’s championed for years,..."


"...since the Senate Democrats’ proposed surtax would apply to capital gains as well as ordinary income, it would mute the “carried interest” break and others like it. But it would do nothing to correct the fundamental flaw — which is the 20-percentage-point differential between the maximum marginal tax rates on capital gains and ordinary income. That differential should be eliminated for everyone, not just for hedge fund managers."


"The president’s jobs initiative is at the end of its legislative life -- not that it really had one."


Sen. Jim Webb (D VA), who voted for the bill, explained that in the end he opposed the bill because it would not address the fundamental issue of reduced capital gain tax to ordinary income.

In a sense that is the whole fuss about Occupy Wall Street.

So in the end Barack Obama got this thumping defeat on his hand because Democratic Senators could not agree for how to pay for the price tag. The tax debate is too complex and politically fraught and unlikely to be solved without an electoral mandate (well, things can be nasty there too).

All this jumping around -  pass this jobs bill now - has been simply 'waste' for Obama in terms of concrete results. Politically it might not be all wash as he would start to make the case that it is GOP obstruction which is responsible for the possibly impeding economic hardship.

What all this tells us is that not only Europe is helpless in solving its own problem, Washington is no different. Tactically it seems Obama jumped the gun without getting Senate Democrats coalesced around a single funding source. If you cannot get 53 Senators on board, how are you going to lead this divided nation to agree to fund your program? May be White House thought not worth to spend any political capital on Senate Democrats as GOP House is unlikely to take anything on this. May be this is just an opening bid so as individual items can get realistic shots. But that seems doubtful. The only choice left for President Obama is to keep going to American People telling how 'Congress' is against doing something meaningful to solve problems of Americans and hence he would need a full mandate with majorities in both chambers of Congress. Ya right, we all know how well that is going!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Looking Back

There is a kind of Carter Regime ting to what Ezra Klein has rendered in a well written column about travails of Obama Administration in battling 2008 Great Recession. Eventually Ezra says that probably other paths would not have had much different result than where we are in terms of recovery; but still 'we missed the bus...' sense is in the air.

The single most important thing Obama and his administration would have done was to be cautious and keep reminding Americans that indeed we are 'in this' for a long haul. This means, there would not have any pretense of 'recovery is around the corner'. Politically that would have made it harder to 'sale' stimulus and some other policy measures. But it would have been much better to deal with such political difficulties then - when Obama administration had political capital - than dealing them now when practically all policy options are closed.

Ezra talks about how in the last quarter of 2008 Economy contracted almost by 9% which we happened to know for sure only this year. Point well taken. Then on similar lines, what policies you are adopting today on today's data are also equally on shaky data. That is what folks like David Brooks want to argue - to pretend your policy prescription can be based on solid factual information all the time is less convincing as well as less useful to us in the end. Hence it has been always important politically to support and argue your policy prescription by pointing out caveats and it's limitations. That is what is missed by Obama Administration.

Even today, the primary thing what President Obama can do is to argue that whatever policy prescription he is offering (Jobs Bill for example); those are means to lessen the impact only, those simply insurances. True Obama Administration is careful today while advocating its prescriptions. Beyond that he should also argue for household debt reduction (does not have to be necessarily 'hair cut'; but even letting home owners to take advantage of lower rates regardless of equity left) and necessary cultural shift in the country so that 'there is a compact between workers and employers'. Those all are longer term changes needed in this country.

President Obama is unlikely to get any of these changes unless he has workable majority in both chambers of Congress. The model of bi-partisan achievements because of a towering personality president reaching to Americans 'over Congress' to put real, workable pressure on Congress; that is unlikely to work in the given hyper partisan politics and divided country. In other words, Obama needs to change 'the game of American Politics' by practically conducting 2012 elections as like parliamentary elections where he asks Americans to give him the majority mandate across the board to make changes possible. Electing a president - that should be practically a simple consequence of electing 'head of a Congressional majority'; that is the change we need. Regan style bi-partisan politics is no more possible and Obama needs to cut that chase. Only when he gets this politics right in 2012; he would get another chance to correct what he missed in his first 3 years.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

RIP - Steve Jobs

It will be a while before we start to understand the full legacy of this remarkable person. His last call - when to retire as CEO - was close; but still right.

In these dog days of America, there were only few pinnacles of individual achievements which would inspire us, sustain us to remain positive. Steve's life was one of them.

Thank you Steve Jobs and rest in peace. 

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Move On Mr. President

Yes, we know that Mr. President you are not far from truth when you say you are the underdog for 2012 election. That is a rational conclusion from these numbers.

But beyond a point shedding tears on shoulders of Americans for 'how mean GOP has been to you' would neither solve problems of we Americans nor would it give you a second opportunity to solve our problems. The issue is whether you have 'keys' for our quagmire or not. If you don't, then move on Mr. President, let Americans try someone else. That does not necessarily have to be some one from the GOP Parade of Extremism; but who knows it could be very well someone from Occupy Wall Street. Americans have a right to turn down someone who they have tried and who does not have any 'magic keys' left; in the hope of someone else who will part the skies. (As you know we voted you with that, alas, wishful thinking.)

Think hard and tell us what would genuinely solve our issues. Tell us fearlessly where we have messed up and what specific hard work we have to do. Articulate how we can insulate ourselves from impeding European Economic Collapse. Smarting over John Boehner and Paul Ryan, it can only take you so far.

And not that you have not shown such leadership. Nobody told you how to do the OBL raid or how to wage a successful 'drone war'. You did improvisation on your own. We need that leader - the one who 'leads us' in our economic calamity, who is equally calm and non-boasting and at the same time keep executing relentlessly like how you have been working hard to eliminate the rouge gallery of terrorists. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Continued Bachmann Non-sense

Rep. Michele Bachmann is resourceful, every now and then she delivers one highly original non-sense. This week's pick is 'blaming Obama for Arab Spring'.

1. First things first, is Arab Spring good or bad? Normal human being on this planet would regard it as a good thing since Arab Spring is ending dictatorial regimes. Bachamann does not think so. Someone needs to ask her then does it mean she wants common Arabs not to have political freedom? How does that square with freedom, liberty and equality values of Conservatism? Or is she suggesting only Western folks and Israel should have all these rights and Arabs don't? Is it racism?

2. Next, it seems she does not recognize difference between democratic Arab Population and religion based Islamic Revolution of Iran. She implies both are same, again how rudimentary and ignorant.

3. Finally, the fool lady with her blind sycophancy of Israel does not even realize that any political leader of a stature would not negate human emancipation for ruthless domination of Israel over Arabs. She is all okay for rest of the world to continue to live in non-democratic systems just so as Israel can continue its imperial policies. The whole historical context is missing for her. Well, may be it is too much to expect from her 'small brain'.

National Security Presidency?


First, it was the big prize of OBL. Now, it is someone named Awlaki. Who is next - Haqqani Network guys? We are probably on quite a trophy set. In Bush-Rove days, this all would have been sufficient to be successful politically. But times have changed, the nation has gone little soft and very much demanding about basic 'bread and butter'. People will applaud but then will demand 'show me the money'. Nothing wrong, that is how Democracy works. Otherwise even after WWII victory, Churchill would not have been soundly defeated.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

European Crisis


The debate has focused entirely on what cannot be done rather than what can...

European policy has been constantly lagging behind. This will continue.

Do we really believe the Greek government can implement one austerity plan after another with a majority of five seats?

So even if Europe’s leaders were to come together tomorrow and agree on all the necessary steps to end the crisis, they would not have solved it until they could demonstrate that they enjoyed full political support. That is unlikely to be the case for a while yet.

The European Union has wasted two precious years with dishonest stress tests that have shaken the credibility of the European Banking Authority, the European Commission, national central banks and national bank regulators. If you factor in the economic slowdown, Europe’s banks could be undercapitalised to the tune of €500bn.

Based on previous performance, it is hard to imagine that the European Council will rise to the occasion. If it does, it is even harder to believe that they can get the support back home.

I have never seen Europe’s policymakers as scared as I saw them in Washington last week.


That is what a reputed financial journalist has to say who has been following this saga very closely.

For a lay person issues can be relatively simple:

- European banks have given lot of debts to sovereign countries of EU which are not in the position to repay. Greece is far most  but Italy, Portugal and Ireland are not far behind; though Spain could be in bit better shape. So defaults are inevitable. First question in defaults is how to compensate for losses of these European banks. You can never have a modern working economy without healthy banks. Weak banks with losses, triggers bank runs and that is the end of the story. Geithner rescue model for American Banks is the working template here, question is whether Europeans want to emulate that or not. Many countries in the world - China, Brazil, India, Australia, etc. will be interested in picking up equity of European banks and that is the way to increase the leverage of initial recapitalization by European governments.

- Once the immediate danger of bank run and consequent collapse of European banks with a shock to the global economy is avoided, next question is how would you bring recovery to these battered economies. This means demand needs to increase. With the straight jacket of single European currency and absence of more jobs which produce tradable goods and services in an economy like Greece; it is hard for these economies to have any sustainable recovery. For economy like Italy which does produce tradable goods and services, as currency devaluation option is not available; it's competitiveness is always threatened.  Not all nations can pull off Germany all the time - high cost but ultra efficient in producing high value adding tradable goods and services. Not to ignore the political tensions within Germany, but as a society and a political system; there is a degree of cohesiveness about policies which would retain this global competitiveness. Even a country like USA with it's free floating currency and high base of tradable goods and services producing economy; it  struggles to achieve basic national and political cohesiveness about policy prescriptions which can retain its global competitiveness. Hence deck is stacked against Greece and Italian economies unless their political act comes together along with all the necessary support and understanding from rest of European countries.

My impression is eventually Europeans would address the first issue; but the second is quite hard. That means chances of avoiding global shock are not too bad, but economies like Greece and Italy will be left behind for long, long time to come; dragging down most of  the Europe for a substantial period.