Saturday, June 29, 2013

Wendy Davis

Those pink shoes are likely to command some premium some day.... Tide is turning, slowly turning to make Texas the Purple State.


(Programming Note - Travelling for next two weeks, so sporadic to none blogging.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Watershed Moment

Worthy happiness: Andrew Sullivan

Wrong frustration: Chris Chistie (while earning few pinnochos because that same Democratic President - Bill Clinton - has been on record many times to overturn DOMA he had signed. Christie conveniently ignores that. Shame.)


Update - I got my earlier understanding wrong, hence the post is reflected to correct that understanding. Apologies.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Snowden Goes South From Here

Veteran reporter Mark Ambinder wondered whether Edward Snowden has crossed a red line by spilling beans to America's competitors and adversaries. Mark Ambinder rightly diagnosed 'what endgame Snowden plans' is crucial.

Landing in Moscow, cozying up with Putin's Russia and then again sleeping with Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador; that is a veritable list of America's adversaries. Missing are Iran and Syria! At this rate to be on a global trip doling out all these Americas security details to states which hardly have any sterling record in respecting human spirit - Snowden is going out in flames. When initial sympathizers like Sen. Ron Paul are turning on him; things indeed look grim.

Luckily, the shelf life of Snowden's information will not be long in the fast moving digital world. NSA would have expected to start the 'mopping up exercise' in full swing and American Security Apparatus  would have moved on. I cannot imagine NSA and American Security Establishment would so dumb to allow continued bleeding of their assets due to defection of one person. They were fool enough to have allowed Snowden in this position, but beyond that Americans expect NSA to recover.

As Nancy Pelosi rightly said (forget booing of Nancy, that is just posturing by Progressives), the real issue here is these expensive contractors like Booz Allen Hamilton which cost America lot and at the same time pose risk. May be Congress and Federal Government revisit the policy of 'outsourcing all these things' and see if they can bring some of these things in-house. Clearly these contractors are not going away as Federal Government would not be able to undertake all of that work by their own employees. But moving the needle bit 'in-house' may be a part of measures to secure further Americas secrets. As Immigration Bill shows, after all Republicans will not be always opposing Federal Government to grow (they want to add 20,000 more border security agents). Bringing critical security work in-house seems to be one such legitimate cause.

King LeBron James

Buckethead pays tribute to LeBron!

But don’t do miss-spelling!

Of course I love 'Single Ladies Fame' Beyoncé... But why celebrate LeBron James? Because, Nat Silver explains that....

Meanwhile, enjoy Buckethead - Soothsayer and PadmasanaYes,  LeBron is as amazing as like Buckethead.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Obama Presidency - Progressives Lament

As Netroots Nation gathers in San Jose, Progressives are content in that President Obama is essentially on Progressive side; but for the Congress he is not able to move the agenda. What I wonder though is how much of a responsibility it is of a leader to anticipate these hurdles in order to be truly transformative? Great leadership and enduring legacy happen when that Leadership overcomes completely unknown  and new kind of challenges to move an agenda to take forward our People. 

For the first two years of  his Presidency; President Obama, Rahm Emmanual and their cohort were simply washed out in the world wide adulation showered on them. True, once in century economic challenges swamped the Administration and the Administration dealt those with admiring and effective competence; no doubts about that. But while economic fire fighting was on the right course (Summers, Geithner and Bernanke will be regarded very highly by History; but sadly Christina Rommer will be stuck with some unfair appraisal); it was required for President Obama to sense quickly - and adopt to - the developing challenges of Tea Party.

It will be a while before we will come to know with certainty whether it was a right 'call' to push ObamaCare while Congress was Democratic and risk all the wrath of Tea Party subsequently; or the wiseness was in holding off ObamaCare for a while. Imagine President Obama halted ObamaCare sensing 'exploitation by Tea Party'. Would it have stemmed the subsequent 2010 loss of Democrats in House? I doubt. But then President might have had room to pass some compromised version of Health Care reforms in 112th Congress. 

Even if one accepts that in the end the political decision of 'pushing ObamaCare' in 111th Congress was right (and I am still inclined to accept that) as controlling all 3 elected levers of power in Washington is not frequent; fact is President Obama and his political machinery was very slow to realize the 'hard ball game' Republicans were already pulling on him. ObamaCare or not; in hindsight I believe not grasping ramifications of Tea Party emergency  is the single most blot Obama Presidency has. Consequences are essentially tattering of progressive agenda and trench warfare to push forward every single piece of legislation. 

We need 'forward sensing' ability in our leader. Even now, I am not sure President Obama is so tuned to dynamics evolving in House - the only way House can pass anything is by essentially looping out at least quarter of Republican caucus. Unless these Tea Party members of House are essentially passed over, unless a sufficient 'room' is created for Speaker Boehner to maneuver bills on backs of Democrats; President Obama is not going to be able to get anything legislatively.

Another failure of President Obama as a party chieftain has been not to anticipate gerrymandering of House Districts which Republicans pulled. Essentially Dem political operatives dropped the ball in sufficiently warning about how 30 Governorship in Red Column would rig re-districting to Republican advantage. Point is if any American President wishes to make consequential changes in domestic policies (and that is what supposedly Obama wanted since when you run as a President who 'winds down foreign wars'; Presidency is all about domestic agenda); that President better understands emerging political scenarios in States, impeding Census and it impacts on defining Congressional districts. Fundamental political power is at play in those matters. It is doubtful President Obama every grasped importance of this. He thought he could jump from the air and change Washington. That is the lack of maturity probably progressives have paid dearly for. Going forward American Presidents need to be more and more like Parliamentary Leaders - you win your own majority in Congress to get anything done of substance. You fail in that - then it does not matter how much 'moral high grounds' you occupy; you ain't going get anything of significance.

This failure to engage in domestic politics and attempt to change the system in 'top down' manner, that is making Obama Presidency as simply 'also ran'. Large swath of Americans are reluctantly accepting Obama because they are 'in terror' when they look at how economically destructive Republican Agenda is. As American Politics become more and more Parliamentary type, the importance of leadership rose from grass roots, carrying substantial factions of the party together, will only increase. There is no substitute for 'physical retail politics' and for Obama Presidency that has been always an after thought.

Obama dragged American Politics 'leaps and bounds' in Internet and Big Data Era; History will judge that as one of the effective contributions. Obama exploited this advantage successfully and with some fantastic skill. Essentially Big Data driven 'digital retail Politics' is Obama's 'drone weapon' to his domestic political opponent. What he however missed is to deploy this unprecedented advantage - which he has built from scratch - in service of other Democratic candidates of Congress and even for some key governorship. Except fighting for Harry Raid's re-election for Senate in 2010; very rarely Obama has applied full force of his digital political machinery to these Congressional Elections. Unless he does that, all that digital infrastructure built will go waste in some sense whereas meanwhile Republican Politicians like Sen. McConnell (and I suspect Sen. Rand Paul in future for his presidential bid) will for sure undertake the 'catch up' play. That is where tomorrow's American politics will be fought and that is where President Obama has a chance to bequeath his progressive successors this digital infrastructure to redeem himself in some sense from the debts of his Progressive Base.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Border Security - New Stimulus?

Republicans are ready to spend $50 Billion on redoubling border security. Part of it will be adding 20,000 or more Federal Employees or at least well paid jobs! President Barack Obama fought for years to get paltry stimulus after the first stimulus in 2009, but he could not succeed. But now, he is getting a small stimulus without asking! If it is coming at the cost of denying ObamaCare for Tourists and international Students; well he will be ready to pay that price. Strange ways of Politics. 

If all this helps to move the Immigration Bill strongly in the Senate, that is good for America. May be Republicans after all will be in the 'business' of listening to Americans...not bad.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Now that is Gender Equality!

"Rights and duties should be the same for all...The armed forces need access to the best resources, regardless of gender, and right now mostly men are recruited."


Norway is a trail blazer nation when it comes to gender equality. Coming on the 100th year anniversary of granting voting rights to Norwegian women, this particular passage by Norwegian parliament is not just symbolic, but practically of significance considering small population of that nation.

When American Republican Party still cannot get over the 'anatomy and physiology' of women body; this act by Norwegian law makers shows - it does not matter whether you are a small nation (though Norway is one of the wealthiest countries in the world) or a nation surrounded by big nations or behemoth EU; if you have a will to make the change you can lead the world in substantive matters.

Bravo Norway, way to go. Hey, Republicans; any thoughts about getting over this obsession about female body? Or do you want to 'keep giving' these gifts to Democrats?  

Friday, June 14, 2013

Superman - Man of Steel

Watched Superman (courtesy my employer).

I liked the first part of the movie. Surprisingly like good old 'character movies'. Neither Hollywood makes such movies now-a-days nor we are used to watch those. So that was a pleasing experience - really cool acting, simple and clean narration and some intelligent script. Very nice 'take' on the birth of Legend of Superman.

Second half - too loud. Congested Shoreline Theater in Mountain View did not make it any easy either; it was too hot. (When are they going to demolish all those old theaters to make a way for some contemporary movie going experience? Is it only when Lords of Mountain View Google decides to build first set of special theaters where you can watch some special movies with Google Glasses?)

The latter part of the movie is all about in how many different ways one can show destruction of a modern metropolis like New York. It is all 'Polymorphism of destructive acts'. It is about in how many different ways Americans can re-live the tragedy of 9/11. You see, for we Americans, 'crashing of a sky scrapper' whips some kind of visceral reaction....no tragedy is sacred, no national trauma is spared when it comes to Hollywood's financial calculations. Hey, after all you got to give 'multiple times returns' to your investors...

But of all the summer bloc busters so far (Cruise's Oblivion, Downey Jr.'s Marvel Comic sequel Iron Man 3 or lame Star Trek into Darkness); it is the Superman which stands out. All your money's worth, all your time's worth.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Positioning for 2016?


“One after another, they talked about the business they had built. But not a single—not a single —factory worker went out there" 

-- Rick Santorum, Politico

"If the picture I’ve drawn is at all right, the only way we could have anything resembling a middle-class society — a society in which ordinary citizens have a reasonable assurance of maintaining a decent life as long as they work hard and play by the rules — would be by having a strong social safety net, one that guarantees not just health care but a minimum income, too. And with an ever-rising share of income going to capital rather than labor, that safety net would have to be paid for to an important extent via taxes on profits and/or investment income.

I can already hear conservatives shouting about the evils of “redistribution.” But what, exactly, would they propose instead?"
-- Paul Krugman, NYT

Are folks already positioning themselves for 2016? But with chances of fair economic growth in next few years, 'cries of redistribution' may not fly so much. Who knows - after all the forces of increasing 'inequality' are so strong in today's world that few years of wage growth for down trodden still may not give them enough. 
One thing is for sure though - Romney style 'lather more on rich' or Herman Cain style stupidity in 'load more on poor' would not fly. 
At least that is the hope as the regime of that original "hopy thingy - one named Barack Obama" continues its  prolonged sunset in the first year of his second term.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Edward Snowden

David Brooks has a take on him claiming how contemporary world results in 'island individual' situation and how that prompts this behavior to expose the basic trust State reposes on her employees in guarding information.

But here is the thing - expectation from the State has been to remain secret about 'how secretly State possibly snoops on her subjects'. Legally, Snowden for sure have done things wrong and State is right to bring him to the court. But morally? I am not convinced that 'morally' he has done completely a wrong thing. Would I do it if I were in his situation? Probably not, but not sure that is because I do not have balls or simply because of feeling of 'play by the rules' mentality. What I am certain about is - all the complaints and negatives Brooks pointed out in the personality of Edward Snowden; all those are irrelevant. Societies do not benefit or progress because of 'all balanced people' all the time. For Brooks to point out deficiencies in Snowden's personality is like trying to back his 'pet pseudo-scientific theories' based on some sensational news making event.

If at all Snowden missed something for sure, it is this - why go to Hong Kong to avoid the State? Why not stay in USA and face the charges? That would have been even more authentic and true to the zeitgeist he is trying to capture by this act.

What to do now? Humanity needs Snowdens of the world, how so ever faulty, to show where the universal compass is pointing. He has done his part leaving it to the posterity to decide what he did is good or bad. What we need, as President Obama said, we need to have serious conversation and debate about:
- what privacy we Americans are ready to compromise for our security?
- to what an extent this Faustian deal holds and what 'marginal security' we get in return?
- and the State in which we deposit so much faith, if it is so fragile that one 29 year old young man can expose her so naked; why do we have so much faith in this State then?

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Dawn of New Cyberwar?

It is a great news that two consequential leaders of the world agreed about belligerent North Korea and few other issues; but what comes out prominently is about their differences. If reports are true, it seems neither President Obama have convinced President Xi the real dangers and destructive power of 'hacking' nor Chinese leadership seems to take 'cyber crimes / cyber war / cyber security' that seriously.

This week I saw that how an ordinary blogger like me can be 'shut down' by some arcane practices of Google and Go Daddy. With every passing day, "you live if you have presence in Cloud" truism is coming to more and more folks on this globe. What it means is with every passing day, welfare and fundamental security of common people is going to be determined by how well Nation States honor and enforce Cyber Laws and Agreements. To hear that China leadership is not 'that receptive to these issues' is no good news.

House Keeping

Domain name of the blog changed from "www.21stcenturypolitics.com" to "www.21centurypolitics.com" for reasons beyond my control. Hoping for the transition less painful. Thanks for understanding.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Obama-Xi Summit

The good thing is neither President Obama nor President Xi Jinping are driven by any 'larger than life' zeal to make some epoch changing deals in the upcoming summit. Both sides have set no expectations, nor leaders are depending on the summit to deliver something crucial for their political survival. Such a relaxed setting as well as workmanship like approach will do well for both leaders.

Part of the reason why there are no set expectations is Obama Administration has not set any well defined agenda to deal with China. The Administration has done a good job in not precipitating any crisis with China, but at the same it has remained 'list-less' in its China Policy, except say 'Asia Pivot' in some sense. Clearly, the summit is an opportunity for Obama Administration to come out in setting the tone for remainder of the term. Whether it results in a 'concrete communique' or not is besides the point. Because Obama is in his last term whereas Xi Jinping is only starting his first term. For Xi Jinping, as he establishes himself with rest of the Party and Chinese Military apparatus; he would be reluctant to commit anything which will stretch his credibility with his brass. Besides he is going to wait out Obama to deal with the next American President too. For Obama Administration, Republican control in Congress is going to actual help while dealing with Xi since China would prefer to deal with a softer Obama than rabid Conservatives in Congress harping about Human Rights with shrill. (When a President is Republican, business interest lobby of GOP takes over and human rights issues are relegated into the background. When a President is Democrat and Republicans are in Opposition; human rights issue comes up strongly limiting business agenda a Democratic President wants to pursue with China. Well, that is the way Politics works in USA and Chinese will be well aware of that.)

There are number of important issues to be thrashed out between USA and China. Of those, a summit of this kind should make progress on following ones.

1. Obama Administration's Asia Pivot (while sending your Defense Minister before the summit to make appropriate noises in that part of the world) and following 'song and dance furry' for sure would have alerted China when it comes to South China disputes. That dispute is primarily about oil and gas extraction from disputed waters. Nations (China, Philippine, Vietnam and others) are fighting to establish their sovereign rights so that 'extraction' can be claimed subsequently. China wants to grab all of these waters; but more organized response by other nations and America's involvement have slowed down this Chinese aggression. But China is unlikely to back down here, considering it's immediate 'voracious resource needs'. 

Even though the conflict is about sovereign rights, the dispute is not about people or usable land. This means one choice available here would be 'common sharing' of resources as extraction is undertaken. Since America does not have any claims on the area or what proceeds come out of that while at the same time can deliver on necessary military capabilities to protect interests of his partner nations; America can propose 'principles' for shared exploitation of natural resources out of the area while separating out administrative aspect of the area. Pairing diplomatic initiatives along these lines while showing the spine by military projections in South China sea, America can contribute to resolution of this issue constructively. Any loosening of tensions in that area are naturally advantageous to all parties.

Once such an approach shows promises in South China sea disputes, same approach can be adopted for the China-Japan island disputes too.

2. As far as nuisance of North Korea goes, it seems nothing much can be done apart from sharing of notes as both countries do not have much control on what madness goes in that country. China for sure has leverage and it has weighed upon that regime. But it is doubtful whether China would risk pushing North Korea so much that the regime collapses and China becomes the destination of refugees from that country. However, Obama-Xi reiteration that Korean Peninsula must remain nuclear free, could be a good gesture to let North Korea know that no one wants it to cross the red line. 

3.Many in West have been making a case of corrosive impacts of Chinese State Capitalism on world pecking order. Advances of Chinese State Capitalism in rest of the world are not that much different than Private Capitalism of West conquering corners of the world. To that extent nations must insist on reciprocity of market access. If China wants to fund a transportation in a country, it also needs to allow transportation companies from rest of the world in its domestic market. 

Economic vulnerability and lack of Political Will will not make European countries to hold a line in this matter. But President Obama can and he should make it clear to President Xi that such 'reciprocity' is needed if China's State Capitalism wants to expand in USA. President Obama would have Republicans in Congress fully supportive in this regard. 

4. If there is any hot topic making some public presence, then it is of 'hacking of networks of American Corporations and Security Establishments'. Chinese military has interest in hacking Pentagon's network for obvious reasons (same way Pentagon might be hacking Chinese military networks). But for Corporations, Chinese intrusions are about stealing their IP and corporate plans. That is something American companies would be expecting Obama Administration to come heavily on Chinese President. Obama Administration must ask Chinese government to stop all these hacking episodes or else consequences will be going 'open about these episodes' to expose perpetrators.

Without network hacking America should be having enough satellite intelligence on Chinese weapon system. In other words a case can be made that security intelligence can be achieved without Pentagon undertaking hacking of Chinese military network. This means USA can forcefully demand Chinese military stop intruding American networks. There is much more for USA to loose by Chinese hacking - considering IP edge of American companies - than gains by intruding Chinese systems. 

5. Finally the most delicate issue is of human rights. No Communist party chief - who is not an elected leader - is going to like anyone pointing non-democratic nature of the power in China. Like all Presidents before, President Obama also has to live with this situation as is. But like all his predecessors, President Obama still needs to remind President Xi about China's unfinished business - undemocratic political system, lack of freedom of speech and overall protection of human rights. While it is true that Xi Jinping is expected to undertake reforms soon so as free movement of Chinese citizens within China is possible and at some point China will need to throw away 'one child' policy too just to sustain its again population; America and the world has been patient and will be patient for China to undertake these crucial reforms. 

Buying ports and getting earth digging rights in corners of Earth can only take China's State Capitalism so far. All this Knowledge based Economy will continue to remain illusive for China. In what country a young and enterprising youth would like to write path breaking 'software code' if the State itself does not honor any intellectual property? In having this summit in California next to Hollywood and Silicon Valley; this is the precise message President Obama exactly needs to deliver to President Xi unequivocally. How to do that diplomatically, courteously and without offending these Communist Party Chieftains; that is a task cut out for President Obama.