Friday, November 30, 2012

Fiscal Cliff Update

"It’s an uncomfortable but real truth that we are not all in this together; America’s top-down class warriors lost big in the election, but now they’re trying to use the pretense of concern about the deficit to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat."

-- Paul Krugman, New York Times

"Perhaps the key lesson the White House took from the last couple of years is this: Don’t negotiate with yourself. If Republicans want to cut Medicare, let them propose the cuts. If they want to raise revenue through tax reform, let them identify the deductions. If they want deeper cuts in discretionary spending, let them settle on a number. And, above all, if they don’t like the White House’s preferred policies, let them propose their own. That way, if the White House eventually does give in and agree to some of their demands, Republicans will feel like they got one over on the president. A compromise isn’t measured by what you offer, it’s measured by what the other side feels they made you concede."

-- Ezra Klein, Washington Post

These are indeed hearty developments and despite Speaker Boehner's far cry that 'listen, it is not a game'; the 'sky is falling game of fiscal cliff' continues. When popular backing is with Obama and Democrats, GOP must realize that if they do not like Obama offer, come forward and propose their own.

Oh and when Paul Ryan comes forward and proposes those draconian cuts to Medicare, just put those proposals in contrast to all those election speeches where he was the second coming of Jesus in claiming to protect Medicare and lower classes of America.

As President Obama 'threads the needle' of explaining Americans how his tax proposals are not out of line of historical average; heat will be on GOP. 

(And can the duo of Simpson-Bowles shut up for a while? They have hogged too much publicity without any resolution of America's problem when primarily they need to talk to GOP and stop the non-sense of blaming  'both parties'.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Capitulation or Confused?

"The president will travel to Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, to continue making the public case for action by visiting a business that depends on middle class consumers during the holiday season, and could be impacted if taxes go up on 98 percent of Americans at the end of the year,"

Presumably the case here is Congress should pass Tax Cuts else small businesses are going to get impacted. GOP would say, 'Sure Mr. President, why not extend Bush Tax Cuts for all Americans then? Passing Tax Cuts for 100% is better than for 98%, isn't it Mr. President? After all these Small Businesses would get additional 2% customers and that too rich ones. What is wrong in that?'

Where is the other half of the argument that doing Tax Cuts for 100% Americans is 'irresponsible' as it includes top 2% earners too?

Or is President Obama basically signalling to Senator Patty Murray and her Democratic Caucus that letting Bush Tax Cuts 'expire' is in no case acceptable to him? In other words, 'capitulation to GOP threat of vandalizing Economy' is back!

President Obama is still missing few critical things here - first and most importantly, how to communicate with Americans like Bill Clinton did in the Democratic Convention and how to avoid 'confusion'. In this case, the real case President has to do is to 'highlight' 98% of Small Businesses WILL NOT see any change in their personal tax liability because of increasing tax rates on above $250K annual income. Small Businesses getting impacted 'due to reduced sales in absence of no middle class Tax Cuts' is a coarse case since it keeps the GOP argument of Tax Cuts for all 'intact'. Agreed, such nuances are difficult and the 'message' essentially becomes 'coarse' in all this. But that is the challenge President Obama has to address in any case. 

This also implies President Obama is not ready to follow the bold script created by Senator Patty Murray - that let Bush Tax Cuts expire for all rather than accept a 'faulty deal'. As rightly pointed by the Senator, Congress will get an opportunity to pass Tax Cuts for 98% of Americans next year; what will be wrong is to squander that opportunity, subject Democrats to ideological insistence of GOP and in that process inflict permanent damage to America's Fiscal balance. President Obama has a great opportunity to help America 'get rid off' failed GOP theology of 'Tax Cuts for Rich' and seems like he may miss that.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Movie Review - Lincoln


I watched Lincoln yesterday on advice of David Brooks (though it was not at the cost of shopping for me). Bit 'underwhelming' for me. May be because of the buzz, I expected more. 

The problem with the topic is it is such an 'over researched' chapter of American History. Those of us who have followed Obama Administration over years and in particular all the sausage making of ObamaCare, hardly are surprised by Lincoln’s ‘here and now’ Politics. Obama had followed this model of Politics in rallying Nancy’s  Democratic Caucus to support ObamaCare. We still vividly remember Nebraska Corn Husker, Louisiana Purchase, endless chasing of Iowa Senator Grassley and eventually failed courting of Maine Sisters; we know all that. It was about practicing 'Lincoln model of legislation'. Obama very appropriately invoked Lincoln then too. But for a greater and lesser extent, this is how ‘law making’ is always done; whether it is History making laws or mundane passing of budgets. May be this movie brings this aspect very strongly, explicitly to a larger audience and probably it has done a great job of that since Americans need to understand how Congress works or fails

But I am thinking at this point in time when we have just re-elected the first Black Commander-in-Chief, we may want to look at aspects which are larger than an individual i.e. in this case beyond Lincoln. I agree that Lincoln is singularly 'rarest' of those individuals who made 'difference' single handedly. But then this fact is so well established, to portray it using the pivot of 13th amendment only; I am not sure that it is so convincing. (Or possibly I lack the necessary grasp of American History to understand it fully.) Overall I wished to see more of other aspects of that whole History beyond an individual, aspects like how economic incentives of warring colonies influenced their politics. 

I also found the character of Lincoln 'over mature' in this movie. I wished to see more human / mundane aspects of Lincoln. Lincoln in this movie simply confirms the 'larger than life' portrait of him without adding much of insights. Daniel Day-Lewis will not be my pick for his 3rd Best Actor Oscar. But I can be wrong here since there are far more political forces at play - the name is marquee, for God’s sake it is about Lincoln, Hollywood's perennial need to placate GOP and the Emperor of Hollywood has directed the movie

I liked Tommy Lee Jones lot – the character was set properly and he delivered it very well. Meanwhile Sally Field pulled off a powerful performance, I found that character so lively and authentic. 

Overall bit disappointed with the movie. But I am happy to see that Reliance's foray into Hollywood is going so well. That is good for Indian Business, hopefully indirectly to Bollywood too.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Egyptian President Morsi

"It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Morsi has overreached, and that he did so partly on the strength of his recent diplomatic victory in Gaza"

-- Michele Dunne, Former member of the National Security Council under President Obama, Washington Post

"An alarming dynamic is taking hold in Egypt. Power-grabs, brinksmanship and walk-outs are becoming the norm, as a bitter struggle plays out among newly empowered Islamists, vestiges of the Mubarak regime and the country's deeply divided liberals. Political paralysis is the result -- with rule by presidential decree, overreach by the judiciary, and a deadlocked constitutional assembly. As polarization deepens, desperately needed economic, political, and judicial reforms stall."

-- David Rohde, The Atlantic

If Morsi was trying to save the constitution drafting committee and assembly from an impeding court decision by December 2; looks like then he did not have much time and hence he picked the high point immediately after Gaza Truce. But fact remains that, Morsi now has contributed to further fragmentation and division within Egyptian Politics. May be leadership in Egypt is nothing apart from barreling through all this pain (Lincoln?). That can be believed if indeed Morsi relinquishes these 'powers' after the new constitution is drafted and it comes into effect. But that is still few months away and till then unease is unlikely to go away.

However, I do not agree with a suggestion that IMF money should be used to pressure Egypt for more democratic political process. It is better that IMF generally stays away from Politics and continues its focus on getting Egypt's Public Finances in order. In an elected President, Egypt has at least some Democracy whereas  its Public Finances have effectively collapsed. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Preparing Ground for Iran Attack?

While the Egyptian President bask in a well deserved praise and American Media gushes about Obama-Morsi workmanship, one remembers how another USA educated head of state in a Muslim country turned out to be a headache eventually - Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan. Bush-Karzai and then Obama-Karzai relationship started well, but in the end did not work much. One hopes that does not happen to Obama-Morsi relationship as there is for too much at stake.

Apart from start of a durable relationship between two newly elected important leaders (and very soon likely joined by Netanyahu after reelection); ground is also getting cleared for Iran action in early part of the next year. I am with this Atlantic article which argues that latest Israeli action on Gaza has may objectives squarely focused on preparing the ground for a possible on attack on Iranian nuke sites:
- first, to shake up and prepare Israeli Military and Public for a possible confrontation with Iran,
- to neutralize Hamas ability to shower Israel by missiles in retaliation of an attack on Iranian nukes,
- removal of a Hamas leader which could have been a trouble maker in Iran retaliation attack and
- validate Iron Dome setup so as folks all over the world notice it

Hamas landed with much weakened missile attack ability as Israel pounded Gaza over 1500 attacks or so. Hamas also lost many more Palestinian lives without gaining much, though Hamas gives damn to lives of general Gaza public. At the most 'relaxation in border regulations' is what Hamas will get eventually apart from some adulation to their leader and marginalization of Fatah. Going forward, at least for few months Hamas will be all busy in rebuilding from the destruction left behind by last eight days. Having 'mowed the lawn for the current season', new mandate in January and recovering relationship with Obama (now that his funding of Iron Dome is sitting well with Israeli Public and Obama seeing a value in not snubbing Bibi right now); Israel will be in much better shape to focus on Iranian issue in coming days.

This also means those who are anxious for a follow-up action will be disappointed. There will not be much of a progress for a simple reason that Israeli PM can legitimately imagine a world where Hamas backer Iran is dealt with. After decimation of Iranian nuke ability and its humiliation; Israel will negotiate with Hamas from a much stronger position.* In other words, Israel has much less incentive to enter into any longer term peace solution with Hamas right now when it can realistically smell that it could get 'more' after the Israeli election and after whacking Iran. Of course, it is doubtful that both Israel and America have worked out full consequences of any Iranian attack or are ready for consequences the day after attacking Iranian nuke sites. However, all that means no rush to enter into any kind of longer term arrangement with Hamas. Periodic 'lawn mowing' - that will be the operating principle for a while and if that means it puts Egyptian President in more lime light; so much is better.

(*) - Rather than investing in a forceful ouster of another of Iranian Proxy Assad in Syria, USA and Israel might be thinking that ongoing Syrian Civil War is keeping Assad completely tied up and then why over invest? Other issue for White House in helping Syrian rebels is White House will have to midwife what kind of coalition emerges in Syria and then it will be pulled into the vortex of actively managing post-Assad Syrian coalition when need of the hour is to focus on Iran. Without investing anything if another of Iranian ally is fully bogged down, then why bother? that can be the thinking of Obama Administration.


(Cupertino City Hall and Library on Wednesday November 21, 8.00 AM)

Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for visiting this blog.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Shameless Politics of Jesse Jackson Jr.

For many American politicians, national holiday of Thanksgiving is an occasion 'to launder shameless and dirty political news' since Media and Public are tuned out. That is what this news of resignation of Jesse Jackson Jr. from an Illinois House seat is.

Things did not deteriorate in a last week or so for Jesse Jackson Jr. He was ill, incapable of serving People of his district even before the election; many months before the election. But the hubris did not stop him to seek re-election knowing fully well that investigations of campaign finance irregularities were very likely to implicate him. In that sense, he is a brother of another disgraced Democratic Politician - John Edwards.

But what is disgusting is this 'attitude of entitlement' and willingness to take voters on ride. His State and his seat are 'deep blue' constituency. There was no danger of losing it to GOP if another worthy Democrat was nominated at the last minute. House election results were not expected to be cliff-hanger that every seat would matter (and it did not). So what was the propriety in allowing Jesse Jackson Jr. to contest the election? So many of these minority politicians, and in particular Black Politicians, with a lock on their voters; abuse their constituents and this is a prime example. The whole idea of post-racial politics of Barack Obama is to avoid such corrupt politics of patronage or identity politics. But Democrats failed here.

Despite being the highest elected political leader of Democratic Party, Barack Obama has tendency to stay away from Party affairs and this is a prime example where he stayed 'way too much away' from the Party. He owes to Democratic Party that he does not hesitate in criticizing wrong tendencies of Democrats and the Party avoids such foolish ways (otherwise there is no point criticizing GOP that her politicians do not condemn wrong turns taken by Republicans). Same goes to Nancy Pelosi and many other Democratic Leaders - none had decency and smartness to call the 'bluff' of Jesse Jackson Jr. and prevent him to contest the election in the first place when it was plain as like 'sun light' that he would not be able to serve his voters.

What a shame this whole affair of Jesse Jackson Jr. is. We need to 'rinse free' Democratic Party of such 'feudal leaders' of Third World Type.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Balasaheb Thackeray

Among many articles apprising tragic and dictatorial political career of Marathi Strongman Balasaheb Thackeray; I found this one from Bloomberg as quite lucid, comprehensive and succinct. 

It is critically important that more than 70 Million Marathi speaking folks in this world understand 'what garbage Balasaheb Thackery was' and how important it is for us to know how contemptuously he treated so many folks at large. 

The strongest defense of Balasaheb comes down to his contributions to retain Mumbai in Maharashtra and somehow retaining Marathi People in Mumbai. There are two questions here:
- Was that the only way available - his way of 'riot politics' to retain Marathipana of Mumbai?
- And finally, was that all worth? Can we do the balance sheet of positives of retaining Marathipana of Mumbai at such a huge human cost and negatives it brought to larger Marathi Manus? 

The real tragedy is Indian National Congress which had towering personalities like Indira Gandhi who did not mind taking on notorious Bhindrenwala which cost her own life (though she was the one who cultivated politics of Panjab in that wrong direction); did not have any leader to take on shenanigans of Balasaheb Thackeray. Granted, during Indira era, his 'goondagiri' (hooliganism) had not flourished so much and in a way Thackerary was biding his time while toeing the line of Indira indirectly. But subsequently, every Congress Chief Minister of Maharashtra was simply in terror of Balasaheb's power to create mayhem in Mumbai. 

When Balasaheb saw power in sight in Mumbai, alas RSS and BJP found 'brother in faith' with Hindu Nationalism / Chauvinism of Shiv Sena and they all joined hands with Balasaheb in 'looting' Marathi Manus via their extraordinarily corrupt ways. Heck, at times India's conscience keeper Communist also fell in love with Socialistic slogans of Shiva Sena and ignored all the bloodshed cause by Balasaheb or his corruption. 

Politics of Fear as practiced by Balasaheb throughout most of his career and inability of Indian State to bring him or his style of politics to justice; all that have come to an end with his death. And that is the good news here.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lost Cause of Susan Rice

What better than an icon of Feminism taking down another ambitious woman who is defended none other than the newly elected President? Rarely you have such a ripe news to chew.

We have Robert Kagan, not a small name on Right side, coming to defend Susan Rice. Prof. Drezner too. Sure, there are merits in those defenses of Rice. But when you have Dana Milbank and Maureen Dowd, raising enough doubts; it is clear that President Obama is wasting is his newly renewed political capital in the lost cause of defending Susan Rice so vehemently. Does that mean President Obama throw Susan Rice under the bus? Essentially yes, there is no sugar coating here. That is why Politics is so brutal. 

Look, whether it is David Petraeus or Susan Rice; these are big boys and big girls of Washington DC. They do not need President to tell what is right or to set the right 'bar'. Folks occupying these positions are absolutely expected to make their own 'calls' in terms what to do or to know what information could be potentially compromised information. It was the job of Susan Rice 'to be circumspect' while iterating piece of information she was forwarded to. As Dowd explains, most likely Susan Rice was beholden to her own dreams of following Hillary's footsteps that she did not apply her 'own mind' scrupulously to what was she saying on talk shows. Sorry, you live by the sword, you fall by the sword.

What we want is President Obama not to waste his political capital on this lost cause. There is no heroism to stand by your embattled cabinet member when your job is to stand for American People. Interests of American People are served best when there is 'No Drama Obama'. That means for Obama to move on in this regard.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Light Footprint

As familiar trouble spots in the world have erupted, there is a clamor for President Obama to get more involved. I think despite all this, President Obama should still stick with 'Light Footprint Foreign Policy' in general with only one or two exceptions. There are number of reasons for such an approach.

1. To start with President Obama understands it very well that 'fiscal cliff' issue is nowhere near resolution, there are weighty issues of domestic economy which are hobbling America and overall economic recovery is still not strong. Americans expect him to keep that in his mind. Americans want President Obama to husband their pocket book issues first and so far (though it is very, very early in Obama's second term) President is sticking with this script. After all a budget deal is the foundation for America's global role.

2. What in the world an American President can do to solve the Israel-Palestinian issue apart from simply giving a blank check to Israel and protecting her in UNSC? That conflict has a life of its own and unless that 'train wreck' has reached a terminal state with catastrophic consequences; those players (Israel, Fatah and Hamas) do not walk back. At least that is the history. The politics is so calcified in that conflict that the world simply has to move forward (just ensuring that genocides do not occur). Israeli Right is hell bend on bringing the bloodshed and it does not want to accept how 'settlement policies in West Bank' are essentially dooming any chance of resolving this issue in the end. Arabs of Palestinian origin within Israel will eventually force Israel to become a secular state instead of remaining a Jewish state and the internal domestic political pressure at that point will make the peace with Palestine possible. Those who ignore this writing on the Demographic Wall, just need to read American 2012 Election results and understand the force of 'coalition of ascendants'. Israel Right will NOT be able to defy the logic of Demographic Gravity and will eventually have to change.

All that change however is not going to happen in Obama's second term. In next couple of months Israeli PM Netanyahu will get re-elected with harder Right Coalition Partner and then where is the opening to make any peace move? Despite what all pundits in the world say, Barack Obama was right to raise the issue of 'settlement freeze in West Bank' as the crucial step towards peace. But neither Israeli Right nor American Right wanted to listen that sanity. On top of that many Middle of the Road analyst got stuck with procedural issues when they criticized that Obama should have had finesse in raising that issue. 

So 'go to hell' that is what Americans feel when it comes to this perpetual Middle East Conflict. As America continues to become 'self reliant' in Oil and Gas; national security imperatives of Middle East conflicts are less daunting (though the price of Oil may increase since it is set globally).

On a practical level, the primary focus of Obama Administration should be to avoid blood shed as much as possible, let regional power brokers play important roles to control this conflict (in particular Egypt and Turkey) and at UNSC level continue to work for more consensus.

3. Meanwhile, the issue of Iran is a different one. Basically what Barack Obama has done so far is break the exclusivity of Israeli narrative on Iranian nukes. He needs to continue that. As and when his Administration determines that Iranian nukes cross the threshold of dangers to America's interests (including protection of Israel); President can decide the right approach. But all that has to be done on the time of America's choosing and not because a hawkish Israeli PM comes on Sunday Talk shows to talk another 'mushroom cloud' while his GOP brethren are all busy carrying water for him. (After all there are many more people apart from Jews who live in Florida and all those still want Obama as their President...just in case if someone forgets that.)

4. That brings us to the issue of Syria. Yes, it is possible that this is going to become Rwanda for Obama Administration as 40,000 people have died so far. Reluctance of Obama Administration in granting full support to still disorganized Syrian Opposition is understandable considering how difficult to track these elements are after the revolution. Benghazi fires are still blowing in Washington. However, if at all there is any conflict where President Obama would need to loosen a bit and get involved; it will be this. To start with, that is where it can make a concrete difference; Assad government is completely discredited; defeating Assad is one more chip down for Iran and larger Arab Population wants Sunni voice in Syria to be upheld. Once again in partnership with Turkey and European Powers, Obama Administration may need to get more involved. To be sure, we are not talking here any 'no fly zones' or definitely not any 'boots on ground'; but more than what Obama Administration has done so far.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Go Jindal Go

"Jindal seems to get it. Which is encouraging, don't you think?"

Yup, he gets it and indeed it is encouraging.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Transfer of Power

“I wish to sincerely thank the whole party for the trust you have placed in us...We will try everything we can to live up to your trust and fulfill your mission.”

"I want to thank every American who participated in this election. Whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time.
Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated. We have our own opinions. Each of us has deeply held beliefs. And when we go through tough times, when we make big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions, stirs up controversy.

That won't change after tonight, and it shouldn't. These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty. We can never forget that as we speak people in distant nations are risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter, the chance to cast their ballots like we did today."

That is the difference between 'transfer of power' in a dictatorship country and in a democratic country. 

I believe, deep down, Chinese Leadership is fully aware of what an enormous 'distance' they have to travel before they 'give voice to their own people'. At some point, I hope Chinese People will solve this issue. Till then we will have all these 'make believe' showmanship and fully orchestrated power transfer shows.

For all the differences between Soviet Union and People's Republic of China, similarities are just too much to ignore.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Four Star Generals

"The number of e-mails between the two is an astounding number of e-mails"

Question is why would a four star general spend so much high quality / top priority time on one socialite back home?

The rivalry between CIA and Army can be very easily understood. It is CIA which calls the shots when it comes to 'drone war' in Pakistan but the burnt of which is sustained by Army in Afghanistan. Hence, Army has a natural interest in knowing what CIA is planning. 

It is hard to believe that a four start general would not be knowing 'value' of his time and still engages in any such frivolous activities for so long without a purpose. There could be a legitimate motive and that can be trying to get a head start in 'sourcing information about the CIA head'. Gen. Allen's liaison in Tampa could be spying on Gen. Petraeus which might have been 'sensed so rightly' by Gen. Petraeus's mistress. Hence her effective threats to Gen. Allen's liaison.

Of course, this is all gossip and theory only. What all that it shows is it is quite possible that this whole drama can potentially get more ugly before we hit the bottom. Meanwhile, security concerns of America - needless to say those are deprived of attention at the highest levels.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Will GOP Listen?

"Don't scream and yell if one person says 'You know what? It won't kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires.' It really won't, I don't think.
I don't really understand why Republicans don't take Obama's offer to freeze taxes for everyone below $250,000, make it $500,000, make it $1 million,
Really? The Republican Party is going to fall on its sword to defend a bunch of millionaires, half of whom voted Democratic and half of whom live in Hollywood?"

So the question is will GOP listen to this sanity. Reading reports like this, you have GOP Rep. Fleming from Louisiana who are simply brothers of their fallen friend Allen West - never yield to any sensible policy.

It is hard to read how Speaker Boehner will be able to corral his recalcitrant caucus. It does not seem any easy than what it has been for last two years. House Republicans can think that let presidential candidates bother about their chances in 2016 and beyond and it is the headache of Senate Republicans to see how more senators get elected. So long as House districts are gerrymandered, GOP majority is relatively safe till 2022, till next census. Why bother then? Basically Americans are not in a position to make GOP pay for its intransigence in House and House Republicans have least incentive to do anything meaningful even if it means Economy goes into doldrums and most Americans suffer more.

It will boil down whether Speaker Boehner wants any 'glory' in solving America's problems or he wants to be simply a 'care taking House Speaker' who only counts votes in his caucus rather than leading it to a more meaningful policy. It also depends whether members of GOP House Leadership are looking for any future roles. If Paul Ryan wants to be a serious contender in 2016, having a bipartisan agreement under his belt is not a bad thing. But if Ryan thinks political advantage is more in keeping the ideological purity (the reason how broken Republican Primary System influences national politics badly and effectively contributed to Romney's defeat); then we are in for more confrontation. Same goes for Eric Cantor - now that his ploy of making White House subordinate to Israeli PM Netanyahu gone wrong; will he see some benefits in moderation?

For President Obama, it can be argued that premium in exposing his 'steeled backbone' by remaining unyielding is very high. White House can argue that impeding downdraft in Economy due to unresolved Fiscal Cliff; what is new in that? Isn't Obama Administration used to carry this burden? That is what they did all of the first term. A scenario can be thought where America crosses the Fiscal Cliff without an agreement, taxes across the board increase, Economy gets impacted but not so much as Global Economy holds up and as a result America's problem of Deficit diminishes dramatically due to more revenue (Paul Kgruman scenario). For all these reasons, White House may find it worthwhile to take 'the bull by horn' and plough through the impeding Economic hardship. 

All this means, despite all the happy talk on Sunday Talk Shows, we Americans may be in for a long and nasty fight.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Slap to American Khap Panchayat

"Meantime, the party’s platitudinous attitude towards immigrants and minorities couldn't be covered up by drafting Christian converts Bobby Jindals and Nikki Haleys; not when the Democratic Party boldly embraced a Hawaiian congressional candidate who described herself as Hindu-American and an openly lesbian senatorial contestant .
In Jesusland, Akin-Mourdock territory, it was a resounding slap to the American Khap Panchayat. Middle America is still strapped by the Bible Belt. "

[Hawaiian Congressional Candidate is Democratic Tulsi Gabbard who won and openly lesbian Senate candidate is Democratic Tammy Baldwin, another winner, from Wisconsine for the Senate]

Generally Rajghatta of TOI is behind the curve, probably always constrained by decorum of reporting from a foreign capital for a news organization back home. In this article, though he is not bringing any new insights, he is right on spot to describe stupidity of Talibans of GOP in stark terms, terms in which folks in India, folks outside of USA can understand colossal callousness of American Religious Right of types Akin and Mourdock (Bachmann, Allen West included).

Also slowly American Media is coming to it's duty in pointing out the Christian Identity Politics of Right. Large number of Indian immigrants to this country are not enthusiastic to a proposition that you got to be 'converted to Christianity'  to participate in the public life of this country. Fortunately win of Tulsi Gabbard indicates that no such Christian Identification is necessary. Granted, I do not want to go to a territory where a strong reaction to American Right Christian Identity Politics is mainly coming from RSS / Gujarat Supremo  Narendra Modi sympathetic world view of Hindu Nationalism. But nevertheless, we want American Politics free of any 'religious litmus tests'. Fortunately, Obama, Democrats and American Media conducted themselves very well when Mitt Romney's Mormonism was not an issue in the general election; primaries being dirty, internal matters of GOP. That is how it should be and that is the great heritage (not so exemplary at times) of American Democracy. 

However, except for making Romney's religious background a non-issue, Republican Party very actively cultivates Christian Identity Politics. As we know from Indian Politics in recent times - BJP courting Hindu Nationalism and Congress being sympathetic to Islamic Fanaticism; it is never a good idea for a modern multi-cultured diverse nation. Rajghatta knows this very well and that is the reason why he could write such a crisp and succinct column about how American Right is falling into an abyss. Too bad, most of America's bright political commentators would not have necessary background to savor this article nor at times they have willingness to learn more about rest of the world. (That is another of trait with American Right - just ignore rest of the world and keep thumping their chests while chanting the name of Ronald Regan.)

Friday, November 09, 2012

Counter Cyclical

Speaker John Boehner has fired the opening salvo in the coming battle of 'fiscal cliff'.  Today President Obama is to set the tone from his perspective and the protracted negotiations are beginning in earnest. One way President Obama can lead these negotiations is by taking the direction of 'counter cyclical' fiscal policy:
- Taxes on 'haves' (say income over $250K) are incrementally increased as Economy improves and
- Public Spending is hold while Economy and Employment are in doldrums and Public Spending is reduced as Employment and Economic Growth pick up.

Fundamentally it is a Keynesian approach, but with concrete commitments to solve the issue of debt. By linking Tax increase to growth, it basically negates the stupid justification of 'permanent tax cuts' - when Economy is good you do tax cuts because Government is collecting more money than needed (Bush GOP argument against Clinton surplus) and when Economy is weak you give / retain tax cuts least it will push Economy further into a ditch.

What President can propose is a 'framework' where as Tax collection increases, certain portion of it will be used:
- to reduce current and past debt,
- time bound one off public investments and
- progressive tax reduction.

As far as Public Spending goes, such an approach avoids suicidal cut backs at the time of dramatic shrinking of Private Spending. That should be a way to stop 'recession prolonging' policies advocated by Tea Party as well as those currently practiced in Europe. As Economy and Employment pick up, reduction in Public Spending will not have much of an adverse impact as Private Sector would have picked the baton by then. 

Politically it would give cover for both GOP and Dems while setting American Fiscal situation on a path of resolution. Of course there is no free lunch - such a policy approach is complex to enact since this will be possibly a first time it will be adopted on such a large scale. What is the 'base line'; that is a contentious topic. Adjudication of various economic indicators on sustained and credible ways is another challenge though there are institutions available to provide those inputs; like BLS for Employment, CBO for Impact of Tax Policy and I guess Federal Reserve for Economic Growth Forecast. Besides part of Frank-Dodd law is implied collaboration among these institutions to detect and spell out impeding risks.

That is where President Obama needs to lead our Fiscal Policy and avoid the fiscal cliff. He will receive the criticism that it is a 'do nothing now' approach in a shorter term. But need of the hour is not to make drastic changes to endanger weak Economic Recovery but to institutionalize 'sound economy policy' for longer term; possibly for generations to come. 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Why I get so much worked up?

(A friend of mine in India wondered what is it that so many of recent Indian migrants to USA get 'worked up' about American Elections compared to our friends back in India. This is what I had in response to him.)

I do believe this election was consequential. In general as they say, "elections have consequences" and they need to have. To ignore this reality is "simply being cynical" which is precisely Obama fights against as he articulated in yesterday's speech. 

To some extent Elections and Democracy are an exercise in Faith, wishful thinking, Idealism and Romanticism. There is no going about it - both on winning side and on losing side. No one can doubt the fervor of a Tea Party Patriot and true Conservative while no one can deny what an Historic achievement LGBT supporting Liberals have achieved in 2012. Very simply when these elections only become a routine, jaded and unable to discuss even few of our relevant 'here and now' issues; we would have done with the utility of Elections and Democracy. As I understand, meaning of Americanism is to keep working in retaining 'relevance' of Elections and Democracy. I am with Obama here when he characterizes that the true strength (and shine and glitter) of America is this ability of masses to engage in this political discourse; at time messy, noisy and for sure imperfect collective jamboree in this vast and diverse nation. 

There have been 'down times' for America's Elections (2000 infamously and long lines even in 2012). But when one listens 2008 John McCain and 2012 Mitt Romney concession speeches within hours of election results, one understands the 'qualitative class difference' American Politics is attempting to establish. For me, forget America's Wealth, forget America's dominance (but never forget sacrifices of her soldiers); it is this belief and constant attempt to 'engage and execute democratic routines as faithfully as possible'; that matters. And that is why I get so much worked up! Remember, I have been on losing side too. Though did not vote then, 2004 loss of John Kerry was brutal. Liberals and we Iraq War Opposing Americans failed then and had crushing disappointment to sleep on. But Liberals did not run to Canada then and rest is History!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Obama is Re-elected!

He made it!

Ohio was sure. Loss of North Carolina was expected too (Virginia results are yet to come). But the support for him in Florida despite unprecedented voter suppression is amazing. That speaks volume for his political acumen, his electoral organization and his ability to take risks when needed (of which I will talk later). 

For now, just enjoying the great moment.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Baser Instincts

"...  a path that compromises those values — those Judeo-Christian values that made us a great nation in the first place ..."

Apparently Ryan warning Christian voters to save America from deviations which Obama Second Term will bring. It is really getting 'baser' in last few hours, very ugly. May be it is not that far fetched when Politico effectively implies that White Votes are the only ones which bring legitimacy. 

One wishes win or loose, but Conservatives stay away from going this line of argumentation. All that it shows is how deep a chasm the next President will have to overcome. 

Thursday, November 01, 2012


"Obama can boast a record of accomplishment that bests any president since Roosevelt, and has fewer demerits on his record than any of them, including Roosevelt. The only president that comes close in gross positive accomplishment is Lyndon Johnson, whose successes were overwhelmed by his failures to such a degree that he abandoned his reelection campaign. The immediacy of the political moment can — and usually does — blind us. (In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the wide and even bipartisan sentiment prevailed that George W. Bush was exactly the right sort of person we would want to have as president at that moment.)" 

-- Jonathan Chait, NY Mag

Aha! there you are; talking about LBJ. Only slowly History is waking up to the colossal achievements what that guy attained. History knew LBJ's screw-ups in real time, but his positive contributions took time to realize. As every year American Historians try to judge & compare all presidencies; redemption of LBJ is on display. Is Obama finding a place there? I think Americans and Liberals will be more than happy to take a deal where Obama's achievements compare with LBJ whereas he has smartness to avoid hubris of LBJ. That will be a good deal for us and that is what Obama should be 'on' in his second term

My bets in 2012 election - From Obama's 2008 electoral map he looses FL (29), NC (15). Chances are not good in CO (9) and NH (4). I think he carries OH (18), IA (6), WI (10), VA (13), PA (20), NV (6) and NM (5). So even if CO and NH join FL and NC; we are talking here Obama giving 57 electoral votes from his 365 tally in 2008. That means he will get 308 or so. High chances Obama getting 300+ and coming back. That is where I will stick my neck. 

Of many others who have struck their endorsements for Obama, I think endorsements of NY Mayor Bloomberg and Collin Powell are significant (if not necessarily very influential). Among Punditry, I find Chait's endorsement much more intelligent compared to Washington Post Editorial (not bad though), Andrew Sullivan (probably too much sugar...) and NYT Editorial (what is new there? Last time NYT endorsed a GOP candidate in Eisenhower era, that was in 1956!).