Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Irresponsible Argument

NYT columnist David Brooks is a sample here, but lot of Centrist and Conservatives are arguing that Americans should vote Romney because he is more likely to secure a deal from Congress for the impeding fiscal cliff.

Such an argument is irresponsible because it completely ignores the fact Obama failed to secure a deal with Congress because Republicans in Congress ensured that defeating Obama Politically is far more important than solving problems of America by securing any bi-partisan deal.

It is irresponsible because it completely ignores what Republicans are offering in the first place - tax cuts at any cost, tax cuts in face of mounting evidence of those cuts hardly correlating with Economic Growth.

What it means is, "pulling the other guy down at any cost" is a fully acceptable practice in American Politics and on top of it it is a favored one because like 'lame' people accept that co-operating with these intransigent element is what our politics is all about. Whichever way one cuts it, that is not healthy for American Politics.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sandy

With the landfall in next 24 to 36 hours, one just hopes there are no lives lost. But History is not with us. With this kind of gigantic system hurling towards East Coast, things will not be easy.

But Sandy is Mother Nature and you do not have any control over her. It will be Thursday before America will know what has happened in the end. Very unexpected and unwanted end to this election season. One only hopes that People in need get government help as much as possible.


Friday, October 26, 2012

If Onion were in India

RSS, sorry BJP,  boss Nitin Gadkari, is facing some head winds politically. In Gujarat they do not want him, least it tarnishes the Modi brand; that is how problematic he is. So glad to see that in India we have Onion quality satire of the same. This picture is in it's own class (and hopefully Sharon Stone does not sue Navbharat Times on defamation account, considering how radio-active the brand of Gadkari has become). 

Now we can say Indian Democracy is maturing! Citizens of modern democracies got to be able to laugh at Politics, or else any sane person would loose her mind.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tea Leaves

Not only that the competitor says he would simply continue Obama's Foreign Policy, there is bit of 'firm leader' scent in the air when President Obama says:
- effectively he will go Simpson-Bowles and
- reveals his full understanding of Hispanic backing to his candidacy and commits himself for an immigration reform.


If not formally or explicitly, all these revelations give an idea to American People what would second Obama term look like at least in initial days; addressing one of the persistent criticisms of Obama Campaign. 

In remaining days of the retail campaign - as all planned big events of this election are now a closed book - any such 'forward looking' signals will help Obama Campaign more.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Gold Rush - Shale Gas Version

If not the only way, but for sure a prominent way of making money in American Capitalism is cashing out finance driven higher valuations. While all along Congress and Obama Administration were busy drafting Frank-Dodd to control copious ways of Wall Street Finance, that same American Capitalism Machine was in full force on a new playing ground - natural shell gas based boom (and inevitable burst). Ignoring all that and failing to avoid all the concomitant excesses; it is laughable to see Obama and Romney sparring about 'who helped to get higher natural gas and oil production' (Obama Administration or Bush Administration). It is as if these politicians have no clues what is happening on the ground. 

For sure, profits and losses in the business of natural shell gas production are all private and none of those deals pose systematic financial risks, at least as of now. Collapsing gas price might create few issues for steady supply over longer term and that can be a national challenge for America; but then American Capitalism is never about longer term sustainability. If this raises issues about American Regulatory setup to detect financial excesses and avoid consequences of those excesses; well, but we have not learnt anything worthwhile from 2008 recession. Rather than having our election about discussing these weighty issues (and authentic economic plans about how we can create sustainable jobs); we have our election about who is going to be more bully to China.

Some of the gems from this great article are: 

“We are all losing our shirts today, ...We’re making no money. It’s all in the red.”
-- Exxon CEO Tillerson, talking about gas production.

“We just killed more meat than we could drag back to the cave and eat,”
-- Maynard Holt Co-president of Tudor Pickering Holt and Company 

"In China, he [Mr. Eads] was in awe at just how much money was available to invest. One senior executive at a major Chinese oil company that Mr. Eads declined to identify, citing the confidential nature of the negotiations, explained that the country wanted to move as much as $750 billion from United States Treasury bonds into the North American energy business. 

Mr. Eads was only happy to oblige, helping to secure $3.4 billion from the Chinese for Chesapeake through two deals."

“Quit drilling,”
-- T. Boone Pickens, the Texas oilman, barked to his fellow board members at Exco Resources.

"There was only one problem: under the contracts that Exco signed, it couldn’t stop drilling."

"The industry was also driven to keep drilling because of the perverse way that Wall Street values oil and gas companies. Analysts rate drillers on their so-called proven reserves, an estimate of how much oil and gas they have in the ground. Simply by drilling a single well, they could then count as part of their reserves nearby future well sites. In this case, higher reserves generally led to a higher stock price, even though some of the companies were losing money each quarter and piling up billions of dollars in debt." [Wall Street failed to consider price of gas while valuing gas companies and how it would get impacted when more supply comes online. One of the difficulties with gas is, it is much less economical to transport it over sea unlike Oil which is still profitable after crossing oceans.]

"Just as in the earlier real estate bubble, the main players publicly predicted success even as, privately, their doubts were growing, court documents show."

“At least half and probably two-thirds or three-quarters of our gas drilling is what I would call involuntary,” -- Mr. McClendon then CEO of Chesapeake Energy 

"Mr. Eads then helped arrange what will go down as one of the great early paydays of the shale revolution: the 2010 sale of East Resources, which Mr. Pegula had started with$7,500 borrowed from family and friends, to Royal Dutch Shell for $4.7 billion."

"Houston businessman Floyd Wilson, who created a company in 2003 called Petrohawk Energy with the intention from the start of selling it. Petrohawk drilled its first Haynesville well in 2008. Last year, it sold itself to an Australian energy conglomerate, BHP Billiton, in a $15 billion deal that brought Mr. Wilson and other executives a payout worth at least $304 million."

And that is how gold rushes continue in American Capitalism. Don't get the impression that greasy American Capitalism is about Carbon energy sources only. You have Goldman Sachs buying / financing thousands of acres of land in prime Solar Spot of Southern California and Arizona. If Solar Industry would have boomed, we would have seen the same 'excesses' there too. That is just the way things work in this country.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Laughable Idea

One Pakistani Leader speculates to have a common currency between India and Pakistan! There cannot be any more laughable idea than that. It is like putting a cart before the horse.

Looks like this Pakistani Leader has lost what is happening in Euro, the ill fated experiment where few nations decided to use same currency. First of all, there are tremendous questions about whether any such common currency can be implemented faithfully between these two adversaries as anyone country can use it to sabotage the economy of the other. But beyond that even if these South Asian nations implement such a plan as honestly as Europe; how can we ignore what happened to Greece, Spain and other countries - that those countries experienced Capital Flood just to increase their debt? If Pakistan were to clutch to the strength of Indian Economy, whatever it is, by way of a common currency; how is Pakistani Economy supposed to support the Capital in-flight when hardly 1 or 2 percent of Pakistanis pay taxes? Pakistan is one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to collecting taxes.

Not to negate the potential of Indian Reserve Bank stream rolling all these other nations in South Asia, only because it is answerable to well being of more than a Billion People of India. Countries which tried to hitch the wagon to Greenback; those did not see any path to prosperity without internal reforms.

When there is unwillingness to bring to books those who undertook Mumbai Terrorist Attack, there is simply too much of business to be finished between these countries to race ahead to common currency and like that. If this honorable Pakistani Leader hopes to help South Asia in general, he needs to do the hard work - the hard work of moving public opinion in Pakistan to have normalized relations with India. That is the job of a politician. Everything else is like hoping for a magic without solving the core issues. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Housekeeping

Few notes:

1. No, I could not watch the second Presidential Debate due to work related commitments. What I read from, Obama base is likely to overcome the funk they had gone into after the first debate. Economy is holding up, so that is nice for Obama and he is well positioned to continue the brawl for the remaining few days.

2. WaPo journalist Parker called it right when she applauded Sec. Hillary Clinton's class act in owning the Benghazi tragedy. Hillary did it right here (again while helping Obama!).

3. Citi Bank Chief Pandit fell to '3 strikes and out'; I can understand that explanation. If nothing, today was a great day to announce the exit because tomorrow all news is going to be crowded by 'debate and spin after the debate'. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Malala

Not sure she will be saved or safe after flying to UK. One hopes this courageous soul lives for another day to fight what ails so many of those Talibans. 

It is the failure of larger components of Pakistani Society and world at large that a 14 year old has to raise consciousness of what non-sense we have tolerated so far in this world. Seems like finally this whole episode is shaking Pakistani Society and making them face where they have landed due to this policy of tolerating extremists.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Romney Claims his Position

Look at this 'red ink' all over latest poll results. If at all, Nat Silver prediction is still lagging and underestimating Romney strength here.

I would say at this point this presidential election is really 50-50% despite bookies and poll predictions saying 60-40% in favor of Obama. President Obama should look at 'what he has done'!

I know, I know; just as the underdog Romney could turn on, the same can happen for Obama too. Except that he is running out of time even faster. Seems like Obama Campaign has settled on 'ground game', 'turning the base on' and debates only. I do not see Ad blast yet, nor any forceful articulations. 

They say Obama likes 'challenge'. Here he has, all of his own making; no one to dilute his equity in this colossal failure. The only thing going in his favor is Economy, but President Obama has not bothered to make much a case of that lately. We will see if the debate next week would change any dynamics here including a  decisive move in favor of Romney. 

Things with monumental consequences are unfolding with remarkable quiet on Media front. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Biden - The Party Guy

Maureen Dowd a while back incisively criticized President Obama for how he keeps himself alone and away from Party, least anyone would think President is not self-made. That is not at all a problem for the party guy, old-school, gracious politician like VP Biden. Looks like my and of many other folks' expectations of gaffe filled debate performance by Biden did not materialize and the ultimate party guy seems to have delivered for the team. If nothing else, but not losing like Obama in the first debate is a win here for Dems. 

Monday, October 08, 2012

Obama's Chances Gone

".. the corrective counterpunch Democrats hope for will probably never arrive."

-- Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine

I thought the same way as like Chait that Obama has 'missed' the bus as far as moving public opinion via debates (and quite possibly the election as well). Chait exactly explains why the 'town hall' kind of meeting will be nothing like previous and hence lessons learned from the first debate will not be sufficient. More needs to be done there. President will have to do basically 3 tasks at the same time:
- defend his record
- mesh those first term policies with vivid articulation of his policies for the second term and
- he has to do all this while exposing 'contradictions' in Romney's answers.

That is not easy. Erase, that is simply not possible for probably for any human and that Obama is nowhere defying that kind of herculean pressure.

When it comes to his record, Obama has to make clear that deficit in last four years is more because of significant drop in revenue collection due to recession and there are no 'increased regulations' (figures will help) which are holding back economy to take off. To start with Economy is healing, his measures have helped and to the extent it could have been faster; it is the GOP intransigence which has contributed to all that uncertainty. No more 'manning up' (else he will have his whole life to sulk after Nov 6); Obama must speak what 'games Republicans' have played.

Same goes with Romney's Tax Plan. Other day Obama Press corp officer recited how Romney Tax cuts total to 5 Trillion. Obama needs to keep hammering those numbers with details and having answers ready for every counter argument Romney would offer. The goal here should be to make it plain to Americans that in the end GOP plan to finance these tax cuts is based on 'fairy tale' of higher growth rate despite contradictory evidence (growth in higher tax rate economy of Clinton whereas lackluster growth in lower tax rate economy of Bush). 

For Romney, what he is trying to prove is, politics is nothing but 'talking to make the audience feel good'. Whether it is 47 % comment or his argument that he would not have tax cuts with deficit during the first debate; the operating philosophy of Romney is 'say what the audience wants to listen'. If more Americans have this jaded view of politicians; those Americans would regard Romney's operating style as the sign of a skilled politician and will back him. For Obama, exposing that to Americans is the best bet, regardless what Americans decide in the end.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Significant Development

Britain finally extradited Islamic cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri to USA, the one who incited British Muslims to kill Jews and non-believers and the one who praised 9/11 attacks. This is a laudable development. 

Apparently British Queen was not happy to have Masri on UK lands after all the trouble he created over years. One can understand how ideological orientations of a Conservative Government would align with being scrupulous in these sensitive matters.  Also evident is the overall eagerness of UK and EU 'in washing their hands' of this trouble rather than undertake full prosecution on their own lands. But this is all good, America has to bring justice to those who so brazenly celebrate terrorist attacks on USA and those who spew 'all this hate of West' from prominent positions (London Mosque). 

(I guess it may not be a surprise if very soon UK also decides to get rid of another trouble maker  Julian Assange and sends him to USA for his trial.)

So, then are we likely to see repeat of Benghazi attacks as news of Masri prosecution spreads in Egypt and other volatile places? That is possible, but all that means as usual USA got to be more vigilant. 

We have seen many capable democracies (for example UK, India) of the world becoming wobbly at times when it comes to face Islamic Extremism squarely  simply because of religion based electoral politics. Given that, it is appropriate that USA faces this menace diligently, head on and asserts its leadership emphatically.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

First Presidential Debate

Romney was very energetic and he did well for himself, considering that he was 'down' going into these debates; only in flashes bit more 'eager' than warranted and a ting of 'over selling' the pitch. But I guess people can understand this excitement on his part being a challenger.

President Obama was definitely 'down' and 'grim'. I think more important is he did not have 'required lucidity' to make the points pitch perfect on many occasions and overall failed to 'structure' the argument well.

President Obama had a good defense of his policies about Medicare while Romney did make his criticism of ObamaCare vivid and clear. Other than that both were able to stick to their positions about taxes - Romney saying that he would not increase deficit while reducing rate while Obama clearly saying there is no way to balance 5 Trillions of tax cuts by just closing loopholes. 

Being an Obama supporter, I remember couple of points from President in particular (I am sure Romney supporter would bring equally memorable lines):
- For 18 months Romney has been talking about tax cuts but now he wants to talk about no tax cuts to rich and no further increasing of deficits for tax cuts. 
- When Romney talked about how he got partisan support for his medical reforms President rightly quipped that may be Massachusetts Democrats (Romney's opposition) should talk to Congressional Republicans about the co-operation.  
- In the end President Obama said Leadership is about 'saying no' at appropriate points; that was a good point too.


On Romney's side his forceful articulation of Republican 'talking points' will make the base happy (Rubin of WaPo is already saying it is a 'blowout'...). We will see if this all actually helps Romney to add more votes.