Friday, March 30, 2012

Obamacare

My bet - Supreme Court decides 'mandate' unconstitutional by 5-4 margin; but holds rest of the law by  5-4 margin asking Congress to fix remaining part. (Justice Kennedy voting for majority in the first one whereas Chief Justice Roberts voting for keeping the law in the second decision while Justice Kennedy siding with other conservative justices.) It is very simple for Court to say, if without 'mandate' Congress thinks the law is broken then either it fixes or simply nullifies. Why should it be the job of Supreme Court to go after remaining law which is constitutional? At least that is what I believe is a cleaner verdict for this court to deliver without being an 'activist court' while still guarding limits on Congress.

As Washington Post remarked, indeed President Obama turned out to be 'reckless' in banking so much on the 'mandate'. Experts had mentioned many alternatives to 'mandate' which would have achieved the same result (bringing Insurance companies on board for the expanded coverage) while taking no legal risk. Obama Administration simply turned out to be careless in this regard. You do not 'risk' such a monumental, herculean, generations wide political task for one a single item. The genesis of all that is in the way Obama left Congress to run the show about the health care law. They learnt the lessons of Clinton Administration Health initiative failure too extremely and allowed recalcitrant Democratic Congress to run afoul. Obama and Democrats, all are paying the price now.

As the sun set today on Potomac, Supreme Court would have sealed the verdict and if my bets are right; we could be in for politics as usual. No doubt Tea Party would get flip and the fundamental case against Obama will be proved right - he is bringing the 'nanny state' which is trampling our liberties. Fear of more such draconian measures in his second term would the best ammunition for the Romney Campaign (though his MA health care law will be still an albatross); assuming he clinches the nomination by June. On the other hand, Obama and Left will continue to paint Supreme Court in cohort with Conservatives with back to back results like United Citizens and Affordable Health Care Law. On top of that, while GOP will gun for gutting the law completely Obama will argue for 'fixing the broken part' as the rationale for the second term. In other words, though the needle would have moved in the direction of Tea Party without any doubt; it will be politics as usual in the end. No leadership, all lies while our problems continue to stay as they are.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Winds Blowing

As dust settles after the decisive UP and Panjub state elections in India, few things are becoming clear:

- Days of UPA are indeed numbered. Congress planned all along to pass the baton from Dr. Singh to Rahul Gandhi during Dr. Singh's seconds term; but seems like Rahul is coming as a 'dud' in electoral politics. With disastrous electoral performance in UP and emergence of many other non-Congress leaders like Akhilesh Yadav of SP to claim mantle of young voters; things are looking indeed dim for Congress Party led by Rahul Gandhi. Either he improves or Congress will have to start the transition to a new leadership using old hands like Pranab Mukherjee as intermediate steps.

- It is not that the charisma of Gandhi-Nehru family is totally gone. One single bad term by non-Congress parties and Gandhi-Nehru family led Congress comes back roaring. That is the history of modern India. But the question is will the non-Congress parties be so incompetent to repeat mistakes of Janata Party in post-emergency times or Janata Dal of VPSingh? With the rise of Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar and now possibly Akhilesh Yadav; may be, just may be; Indian non-Congress Parties have learned sufficient lessons of being in power. Of course, NDA proved earlier that non-Congress coalition can complete a term. So definitely Indian Polity is mature all across not to repeat past mistakes.

- All this means fundamentally it is the naive politics by Dr. Singh and then by Rahul Gandhi; that is what is at the root of Congress Party problems. No sane Prime Minister of India would have allowed appointment of a known 'corrupt hand' Suresh Kalmadi to head Commonwealth Games and invite the infamy thereof. While Dr. Singh showed singular ineptitude for Politics in his second terms and A. Raja driven Telecom corruption scandal erupted, Rahul Gandhi did not distinguish himself by the way he handled Anna Hazare. It seemed like Mommy Sonia was not in Delhi and the boy lost the plot. There was a golden chance for Rahul Gandhi to 'leaf frog' the anti-corruption campaign and to rally Indian Youth against corruption on the backdrop of Arab Spring, all led of young people. That would have simply swamped Anna Hazare. But instead, he allowed the narrative to be driven by Team Anna and landed giving a singular speech on the topic in Loksbha, but nothing more. Meanwhile foreign commentators (for example Bill Keller from NYT) eulogized Hazare. No wonder, Indian votes started to run away from Congress and experienced politicians like Sharad Pawar are signaling where the winds are blowing.

Where would all this go? I guess continued disarray in BJP can give Congress and UPA some reprieve.  But unless economy improves, Congress and UPA are unlikely to benefit from weaker opposition. Inflation, lack of growth and lack of structural reforms; all of that is going to make economic improvement harder to achieve. Stronger regional parties would also not give enough room for Congress to achieve any policy coherence. All that means, continuation of 'muddle through' - Congress hoping for recuperative period while Opposition possibly exploring new political alignments.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Islamic veil

"Mr. Merah reportedly told the police besieging him that his killings were meant as revenge for the ban on the public use of the Islamic veil, which was supported by Mr. Sarkozy."


If this has any truth, Mr. Sarkozy should bet all of his re-election on doubling down this ban on Islamic veil in public spaces. France is one of the rarest countries which has dared to take on fanatic Islamist to preserve the shred of secularism in the age of 'misguided political correctness'. After all, France can claim the bragging rights for Secularism in Politics with all its turbulent and revolutionary past. Just look at the neighbor UK and many other countries in Europe (and of course India); which simply cannot bring the strength to take on religious extremists. With Santorum in GOP Primary, USA does not distinguish itself as well when it comes to secular polity. Given this global contest, France will do well to get tough on any type of Islamic extremism and non-sense their off. Here is an opportunity for Mr. Sarkozy to cover himself over the 'inane Hollande'. France can perfectly deal with religious extremism while still being a reasonable place for immigrants of all religion

Monday, March 19, 2012

Debt Ceiling Drama

For sure, that is the impression Washington Post story gave - that White House was almost about to agree with the Speaker, but then drew cold feet. Basically, Obama Administration became reluctant to walk with the Speaker because the Gang of Six proposal came out public with a substantial support in Senate, including few Republicans. White House realized that it was on 'limb' as far revenue increase goes; it was agreeing 'way too much' to Tea Party.

Core mistakes by Administration here were:
- First of all leaving their original position of reasonable tax increase as a part of the final deal. Such 'deviation on policy' ground was really wrong. I suspect it would have been Daley and Geithneir behind such follies while President himself did not realizing what was he bringing on the block for 'sale'. 
- Next, how come Obama Administration was so blind sided that it would not understand what the Gang of Six was up to? After all it simply did not learn any lessons from ObamaCare drama - that White House needs to be plugged in with the Congress and it should not leave it to the Congress to drive such important matters. In short, where has been the leadership?

If the story in Washington Post is true (that is a big 'if' since Ezra Klein was giving slightly different flavor of this 'inside base ball' for a while); this whole thing is really 'bad' for Obama Politically. It simply shows Obama Administration out of its depth when it comes to dealing with serious matters of Debt Management. It has very poor sense of timing as well as adopts very poor tactics of negotiations. It was foolish to 'concede on the policy of serious revenue increase'. One understands that when it comes to negotiations and political compromises, everything is on the table. But that does not mean 'you sale your house'. There must be some core principles which must be non-negotiable, no matter what is at stake.  Slipping on that as well as not having a 'judgement where the Senate is heading'; both appear political blunders of highest proportion.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Valley Catching the Fire?

When Kleiner Perkins is confident enough to start a new fund, you are talking some serious traction in the economy. With Bonds getting hammered over last few weeks, it is clear that Bernanke may not be able to keep his word that till 2014 he will not raise interest rates. It is not just Oil which fueling inflation for energy products; but overall the potent force of labor driven inflation in the economy. Still it is too early and there is tremendous 'slack' in the Labor Market; but you never know how the voracious demand in countries like China and India would append the global economy. So fat so good and as the premium VC in Silicon Valley shows; things are going as per the script for the recovery under way. But unless checked, 'over heating' may not be that far.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Hard to Prove Einstein Wrong

Decades after decades that is what brightest minds of humanity have found - it is simply hard to prove Mr. Einstein wrong. There seems to be no exception this time - Opera Team observations claiming existence of particles travelling faster than Light, those were simply not substantiated by another equally reputed team called Icarus Team.

Well, that is where today's Science is - brutality of physical experiments is all that matter. That is same as  Science centuries ago. So we accept what in the end experiments tell us. Cheers to Science and that is how it must be - primacy of observations and no place for sensationalism; no matter how much we all  may find it entertaining. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Future of UK

While UK PM is enjoying his Washington DC and USA visit, one question which keeps coming to my mind is what possibility is there that UK remains a united nation of Wales, England, Scotland and part of Ireland? What is fashionable is to 'gloss over' the challenge posed by Leftist Scottish National Party (SNP) which is rooting for a separate nation from UK. SNP challenge is precisely dangerous because as far as whatever limited governance allowed to Scottish Parliament and Government, SNP has delivered on that. It is one of the rare political organizations which delivers when in power. That can be dangerous  to London if UK Government expects to retain the control with old style machinations.

I for one thing think that UK in it's current format is past it's life and contradictions in political structure as set in past are catching up and setting up itself for a dim a future. Regardless of uplifting visiting to Washington DC by UK PM, or yet again renaissance of British Music (as aptly celebrated by Mumford and Sons at White House)  or the coming extravaganza of Olympics in Summer 2012; none of that mask various longer term challenges faced by this country. To start with you have economic difficulties, compounded by austerity zeal of a conservative government. Then the same conservative government has essentially cut all ropes with EU (not that EU in itself is exemplifying). On top of that then this Scottish challenge. If SNP successfully breaks out Scotland from UK, starting with how can UK retain its UNSC seat to what meaningful Economic weight it can carry on the global state; all those issues crop up.

David Cameron is not Thatcher (who of course in a way sowed the contemporary seeds of Scottish Nationalism by rubbing Scott dominated Labor unions in wrong ways during her reign); but he or any other UK Politician to be a visionary; he or she would need to take advantage of the Scottish challenge and would need to bring 'whole sale' changes in UK Political apparatus. For starter, get rid of Queen as the head of state (let the House of Windsor be Chief in Tourism of UK), abolish nonsensical House of Lords and reduce the number of seats of House of Commons. Bring Federalism with a compact council to replace House of Lords along lines of American Senate; say 2 or 4 members from each of these 4 constituting countries with additional representation for overseas establishments. While you are there, why not go for a formal written Constitution? The idea is transform UK into a fully newly minted country where nationalism of Scott or Welsh find an exciting home with no need for any divisive sentiments. Let UK be that enthralling and visionary experiment in Federalism of 21st Century with equal sustenance of what is good in it's past. If these things are not going come, there will not be only books published who mourn death of UK; but that will be the reality then. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Defending GOP

I understand the urge of Ross Douthat to defend GOP primary voters given the roaster of second rate GOP Presidential Primary candidates. And there is merit in what Ross is arguing about.

But the fact of the matter is GOP voters have at crucial juncture shunned reasoned voices. No amount of justification can wash away South Carolina victory of the 'garbage can' I mean Gingrich. Bulk of GOP voters have allowed the whole debate to be dominated by crass social issues and insane economic and foreign policy prescriptions.

It is true that the larger share of blame goes to those 7 GOP leaders Ross mentioned - Huckabee, Daniels, Jeb Bush, Christi, Paul Ryan, Jindal and Marco Rubio; all those who ducked 2012 primary. The reason I say this is does anyone recall any of these leaders chastisizing 'policy nonsese' propagated by these presidential nominees? Who of GOP leaders and party leaders have said that:
- tax cuts in all cases would not take us out of deficit, 
- GOP cannot advocate extreme anti-immigration policy; and
- just notching one up in anti-Iran sabre rattling is no policy in the end.

Except for some gingering protests and noise by Jeb Bush and Bobby Jindal about immigration, none of these leaders have even attempted to correct the course of GOP; the extremist course charted by jokers of primary and by many other GOP Politicians.

In the end defending successfully GOP Primary voters hardly add any value. May be mainstream media and generic Public could be blaming 'GOP primary voters' unfairly. But that is all besides the point - what most Americans are lamenting is inability of GOP to 'connect to people' and to debate policies which can make their day to day life better without being ideological all the time. GOP is simply not functioning as a political party - conveyor belt for people's aspirations to power centers. Needless to say, loss of GOP and this dysfunction in a two party democracy creates a void and spares Democrats easy. None of that is good for Americans in the end. One political engine of ours is not working and not showing any signs of coming to a life - that is enough to worry about rather than bothering subtlety of  whether it is leaders or voters. 

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Goldberg Bolts

"...No amount of missiles falling on Tel Aviv, rising oil prices and economic crises matter when compared to genocide.

There are only two possible interpretations of Netanyahu’s words and deeds: Either he is the world’s greatest bluffer, or he has set himself on a course to prevent a second Holocaust. Obama has marshaled some very strong arguments against precipitous action against Iran. But I hope he understands that, with Netanyahu, the Megillah was the message."


I do not buy a possibility of PM Netanyahu being a bluffer. World has not descended to such an amoral level where we have to contemplate an elected Prime Minister of Israel bluffing rest of the world, including America.

All this means that the likelihood of President Obama having a failure on cards in restraining Israel from attacking Iran is not a distinct possibility. If Mr. Goldberg is right and America fails in restraining Israel from her 'go alone' attack on Iran, this blogger fails to see how Mr. Obama will be elected for the second term. 

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Jewish Overdose

That is what the early part of the coming week will be - over indulgence in Jewish Israeli Politics by American Politicians.

Republicans hardly know any restraints on any matter these days. Just like each Republican nominee and politician want to outwit the other guy when it comes to Tax Cuts, same is the case in advocating a belligerent tone towards Iran. Fealty towards Israel and pandering for Jewish votes, all are reaching new heights in these days of Obama haters.

There is nothing to undermine the security concerns of Israeli as Iran continues to pursue the nuclear program. The danger of Iranian nukes, if not directly but mainly through proxy players like Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas; is real and at the same it will for sure make the whole of Middle East a dangerous place as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey all these countries try to contemplate their reciprocal responses. So President Obama is right to assert that Iranian nukes is a global threat which needs a serious response. But to become bellicose early on means to undermine any possibility of diplomacy creating appropriate grounds; especially when he has categorically made it clear that:
- he effectively guarantees security of Israel and
- he does not believe in living with Iranian nukes unlike Indian and Pakistani.

But at the same time, he is warning again and again that this is not a 'video game' and loose talk is no good here.

It must be irritating for President Obama to see his domestic political opponents using this national security issue as a domestic football. Israeli PM and its political class do not show much of maturity either when they are garnering such a 'cheap and in the end not well thought through' publicity from GOP side. Today it is profitably in short term for these Israeli Politicians that Conservative American Politicians are pursuing the reckless course of attack on Iran without any thought. But if Israel gets emboldened by that and undertakes the attack on Iran and if the whole situation blows away; American Public may not remain so supportive of Israel considering possible ramifications. 

To start with, Israeli Air Force is unlikely to be in a position to carry out one shot air raids and will need to undertake possibly multi-days campaign. That would give Iran an opportunity to respond while Iraq raising the hell for violation of its air space. Oil prices will go up dramatically and Russia with newly elected Putin would see this as opportunity to 'milk the world' for higher oil revenue. China may not come American ways in UN and for sure would start blaming USA in failing to control Israel as the world faces another recession. Meanwhile, if American military involvement becomes necessary and body bags start to come home while American debt continues for yet another war; American Public is bound to have not so benevolent opinion about Israel. The World and American Public Opinion can change on a dime; giving yet another lease of life to Iranian Mullahs. What looked like a lucrative free ride offered by American Conservative Warmongers, it would turn into a longer term liability for Israel if its closet allay turns away. That is why it is important for Netanyahu to trade carefully here and not to push President Obama over the cliff.

Reading the now famous President Obama  interview to Goldberg of Atlantic; it is reassuring that President is trying to thread the needle here and quite possibly he is getting the 'balance right' here. Fundamentally, he has learnt the right lessons from Bush Iraq blunder:
- need to get world opinion on your side when America indeed enters a war where she is not directly attacked; and
- never to assume limitless capacity of American Public to shoulder yet another war. 

President Obama is overall very 'alert' and sharp in understanding the whole situation. My favorite point in this regard is how a sitting head of the state showed an absolutely acute understanding of the situation and bowled over one of the smartest minds on the subject, that of Mr. Goldberg:
- when Goldberg asked what room Iranians have to back down publicly from their nuke posture without showing as if they are bowing to American Pressures? President responded by quoting recent speeches of Mullahs. Goldberg 'slipped the track' and naviely asked whether President believed sincerity of Mullahs. On that President 'thundered' that it is besides the point whether he believes Mullahs or not as we are on the topic whether Iranians have the 'necessary room' to turn around or not; without showing as if they are folding their tent due to American pressure. 

What all that reveals is a sharp mind at work. May be I am overly impressed by President Obama here, but I think this politician / head of the state is 'getting it right' and basically resisting these war drums just to score some politics. Of course, he is aware that bombing Iran will help him carry Florida and the entire Jewish vote in America. And who knows, in the end he may land up doing all that. But before that making every effort to get the world opinion on America's side and avoiding this to become simply an Israeli issue; that is important. 

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Integirty

It is no good when Ian Chappell calls your integrity in question. But no doubt, he is right here.

Rest of the Indian Team and Sachin Tendulkar are two different things. No matter how shameless Indian Test Cricket Team is, we do not expect Sachin to ever loose his integrity. We do not want our Cricketing Gods to fault; we do not want Sachin to blame others. And if he is not able to avoid that, it is letting down fans of Indian Cricket and Cricket Game in a monumental way. So sad. 

Friday, March 02, 2012

Tabla Rap

After 10 minutes into this second half, it is 'taal bliss'; pure rhythm at its best.

I grew up listening Shobha Gurtu and many other eminent contemporaries of hers. Her son is doing great, bringing great music to our ears. 

Drummerworld is a treasure site. Hope the site owners continue what they are doing so well - bringing great music to masses.