Friday, November 29, 2013

Flying a flag does not make a viable State

It is hard to be a fan of the embattled Spanish PM Rajoy; but one can hardly disagree with him when he called the bluff of SNL Party Chieftain Alex Salmond who is spear heading Scottish Independence.

UK Queen and her predecessors have left disgruntled folks all over the world because of the past British Empire so much as many are instinctively disposed to an independent Scottish Nation; just so as to cut the nose of Queen. But the question to be asked is whether pulling down the queen is any sufficient to make lives of common folks any better.

Fortunately, most subjects of the UK Queen who can organize themselves as viable independent nations, have already done so. But that hardly makes the case of Scottish Independence; despite 600+ plus pages of erudition.

Such an independence is hardly going to make lives of Scottish People any better; especially when Scottish Independence leaders are proposing to retain Sterling Pound as the currency and still claiming to have non-existent monetary freedom. One only has to read Paul Krugman to understand foolhardiness of letting someone else to decide your monetary policy. Greece is a prime example of that - there is no recourse to make you trade-wise competitive nor a mechanism to deflate your debt in real terms assuming it is denominated in your own currency to start with.

If the argument is that Scotland does not have any worthwhile export apart from some Culture artifacts nor do they want to make Sterling Pound denominated Debt (independent Scotland will have to share some part of UK's total debt) more expensive by a weaker currency; that is a different case to be made. Standard economic prescriptions do not lend any weight to this view as well.

Today's world is more inter-dependent and as such tendencies to carve our 'independent nations with a haphazard structure solely on the basis of cultural distinctiveness' are hardly justified. Same seems to be the case with Scotland and there does not seem to be any stronger case to break from UK. May be after all most commoners understand games of these politicians. Just like how Canada learned to live with perennial, but unsuccessful, Quebec Independence Movement; UK might learn to manage Scottish Pride without any actual divisions of the union.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

OBL Moment

When President Obama oversaw the raid in Pakistan to kill Osma Bin Laden, the world froze for a moment.

Obama Presidency has delivered one more such moment in the initial agreement with Iran. That is John Kerry's substantial down payment for his diplomacy run. Well done Kerry - keep quiet, don't talk too much and simply keep on delivering; may be, just may be his ambitious vision might pay at least some tangible dividends to Americans and World at large.

There are knowledgeable critics who are still skeptical for valid reasons. Even after this first agreement, there is a long way before Iran ceases to be a pariah country. There will be reverses and who knows things can still go wrong. But for all these dangers, what this agreement signifies is larger Iranian population and elites have concluded that pursuit of nukes with these sanctions is not worth. That understanding and Ayatollah's willingness to act upon that concretely; all that is needle moving.

More Saudi's and Israeli's make noise about this deal; in a way that bolsters Obama Administration's case for its genuineness in dealing with Iran. In the end, I believe President Obama will be able to calm Israeli nerves as well as Saudi concerns. President Obama has to do that, good thing is it is all doable (unless of course Obama Administration blows it like its HealthCare.gov debacle). But today is the day to congratulate President Obama and Sec. John Kerry and wish them best in continuing the path they are laying down here. Well done. 

Real Moving Parts

Now that most reviews of Xi Jinping's policy pronouncements are in, we have to see where the real money is going. I think PIMCO has got it right - in assessing that for all contradictions of Xi Jinping's policies and still early innings in implementations of the same; Chinese polity and economy is at least getting steered in the right direction.

Crucial question is - would the world absorb two giant currency pools: one American and another future pool of Chinese currency / debt. Granted, today China does not issue much of its Debt globally. But as it starts rationalizing municipal debt market and more seriously implements systematic reforms to honor global title holders of its debts; we are talking some serious supply to the global Debt Market; the one which might compete with American Supply.

I suspect, there is enough disorder and lawlessness in rest of the world to absorb two equally giant guarantee providers of Debt and assets. 

Let London make rest of the England suffer for the quest of bragging rights of global finance center; it will be Beijing though which will be effectively moving parts of global finance in years to come.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

What is Obama Presidency then?

Is it going to be like all contemporary second term presidencies? Unable to move the needle and essentially becoming 'care taking presidency'; only reliant on foreign policy issues to deliver some substance?

That seems to be the case so far. Let us cut the chase - what matters is Obama Administration gets HealthCare.org in shape. So far President is 'clueless' and unable to get his act together - no matter how many mea culpas he undertakes or how eloquent his apologies are. American People, rightly so, would only accept results here and President Obama is no where near there.

What is worse, I do not know whether he understands when he utters like:

"one of the things that I do recognize is since I know that the federal government has not been good at this stuff in the past"

President Obama is basically undermining the entire Democratic political agenda and philosophy - that Government can be a good change agent. Knowing problems of Federal Government and still not doing anything to address is worse. Here is a chance for President Obama to leave behind his legacy - crack the whip on Federal Procurement Process and Regulations so that tax payers money is never wasted on folks who 'game' the procurement process rather than 'deliver results'. 

Knowledgeable reporters like Ezra Klein thinks that President Obama knows the 'reality'. But I doubt. Because if he were to be serious here, he would have adopted scorched earth policy: appoint most capable managers in Software Engineering Industry and get that damn thing done. The thing here is all these Web Site and backend Software problems are solvable. Question is whether President shows the willingness to go into all gory details and shows the executive competence.

Absence of that - we are to Bobby Jindal commentary: "...never ran a lemonade stand".

Democrats in Congress, in rather than prodding Obama Administration to acquire the administrative competence; are simply fleeing here. But they do not know what long term damage they are doing to the Democratic project of centrality of State apparatus.

Because, if Democrats run away from ensuring viability of ACA; these very Democrats undermine their future elections; no matter whether it is Hillary or someone else on the ballot. Point is it is high time, Democratic Congress members understand importance of getting ACA right. You fail in that, Democrats would forfeit all their claims of State intervention for good. Essentially Democrat's case of 'government by the people, of the people, for the people" will simply evaporate.

There is still time for Obama Administration to get this ObamaCare thingy right and Democrats in the Congress need to actively work - as needed behind the screen if doing publicly is hard to sustain politically - to ensure this execution. After all Democratic Party having made ACA work, will be in lot better position to contest 2014. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bye Boss

Thank you Sachin Tendulkar. Countless Indians and Cricket fans all over the world, we are all grateful for the joy and feeling of 'being part of united India' you brought to all of us. You will be the role model for Indian youth and sportsmen for generations to come - on the field and off the field. Your 'sterling character', beyond doubt integrity, achievements on the field and dedication to the sport; all are legendary and worthy to emulate for all. So thank you and best wishes.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Iran

I do not believe Iran will be able to prolong any further existing biting sanctions. So it is all right for USA and Western Powers to return from negotiations without any agreement.

Fundamentally, Iran stopping construction of nuclear plants which can produce nuke material is a must. Arak plant construction must stop, that is essential. IAEA inspections are must and there cannot be any ambiguity in terms of Iran not being able to pursue weapons grade nuclear material. All these things are non-negotiable and hence Sec. Kerry is right to claim that 'no deal is better than a bad deal'. 

Iranian President Rouhani will find it harder eventually to continue his credibility without delivering a pact with Western powers since that is a necessary condition for normalizing lives of common Iranians. So overall - hang on, Iranian Ayatollahs will come to terms with restricting their nuke bomb making activities. USA and Western Powers simply have to hold tight. Else in next six months, Israeli attach on Arak and other Iranian nuke sites cannot be ruled out. That will not be any easy for the world economy. 

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Yesterday's Elections

1. De Blasio's victory in New York was given. But this 'hard Left' turn of Democratic base is worrying. Considering a solid mandate De Blasio has got, it will be difficult for him to avoid enacting at least part of his partisan agenda. When a politician is required to enact such an ideological agenda, the question is will he be a Scott Walker - the Wisconsin Governor who enacted the hard ideological agenda early in the term, fought the opposition and finally prevailed. Or he becomes like Barack Obama where early in his term, he enacted his promise to his base - ObamaCare and there after continued to bleed all over the term; compounded by his administrative incompetence. I am doubtful De Blasio will be able to bring any better Administrative Competence than Obama Administration (whatever it is) or truly competent current Mayor Bloomberg.

I can be wrong, but I doubt De Blasio and his base would have given attention to limits of a city mayor office. Howsoever powerful a mayor is of a rich city like New York, there are going to be enormous constraints to execute any European style Leftist Agenda. Just by winning a city office without much influence at State and National level; you cannot achieve lot. In other words, De Blasio and his base are likely to make the same mistake as like House Tea Party members who think controlling House mean they can fully enact their agenda as they will.

All this means, there lies enormous possibilities for disappointments in De Blasio's tenure. Possibility is how Nancy Pelosi served as Liberal West Coast whipping girl of Conservatives, De Blasio would easily emerge as East Coast Liberalism gone amok. Reality may not develop like that and my fears could be exaggerated; but Conservatives can sure make a caricature of De Blasio as 'return of disastrous Tax and Spend Liberalism' of past.

2. I think McAuliffe winning margin was for sure very thin than what polls predicted earlier. Seems like those polls over-played depth and spread of Blue Votes. But in the end reality is McAuliffe started the uphill battle (his own history and incumbent Republican advantage in Virginia) and won the election. Thin margin is better in a sense that it should put some leash on otherwise easily carried away McAuliffe. He has got some serious opportunity to clear his name by undertaking some sensible 'middle of the road' competent governance.

Other than that, all these tea leaves reading of 'ill portends for Democrats' in the voting patterns and all that; I do not believe there is much to read there; except that pollsters should adjust their voting models to avoid projecting Dem winners so overwhelmingly.

3, About Chris Christie - I fail to read much in his re-election. He is a popular leader so it matters less that he is a Red politician in a Blue State. Apart from name recognition, I doubt this would facilitate anything much for Christie candidacy in coming days.

4. As many have rightly pointed, the real news is the defeat of an extremist Tea Party member in Arkansas House race by a mainstream GOP candidate. That is a first clear sign of Business Community trying to differentiate between Nihilism of Tea Party and business friendly mainstream Republican Party. In trying to push USA over the cliff of Default and shutting down the Federal Government, Tea Party folks have proven their Nihilistic Credentials and slowly Business community is waking up to the task - rank opposition to Democrats does not mean you accept Nihilism of Tea Party. That is a big takeaway here.

There are few who wonder 'better than expected show by Tea Party candidate Cuccinelli' in VA Gov Race will embolden Tea Party rather than veering GOP to moderation. But for every such takeaway, you have the observation of fall of Dean Young. Republicans are going to allow shenanigans of Tea Party at their own peril. If nothing else, so much  divided Republican Party means continued political gains to Democrats despite overall situation being not that favorable.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Wrong Headed Energy Policy of India

Having joined the nuke bomb club one way or the other, India does not have much of an excuse to pursue Nuclear Energy for the sake of nuclear weapons technology (India is not contemporary Iran). India's nuclear weapons abilities are mature already. Given that, pursuing Nuclear Energy power plants has much less justification in India.

Consider a legitimate and timely case against India's fetish about Nuclear Energy as argued by Pankaj Mishra in Bloomberg. There are lot of things which might be going right in Abe's Japan, but "doubling down" on Nuclear Energy does seem to be one of those. Famed Japanese preparedness and discipline were nowhere to be found when the debacle of Fukushima happened. Rather than seeing these failure, for Indian Government to fall for Japanese nuclear reactor is essentially doing disservice to it's own tax payers by diverting precious resources to an ultra-expensive technology as well as to risk lives of common Indians for no apparent reason.

Indian Government is neither able to stop corruption in these mega budget public projects nor able to stop multitude of vested interests which keep pushing India on a wrong path. This love of mega-projects and unsuitable technologies is across the political spectrum. Congress Party has continued its Nuclear Energy Policy for decades despite it costing India fortune with puny results to show while across the board increasing risks of multiple Bhopal Accidents. Meanwhile in BJP, Narendra Modi's atrocious history in dealing with Narmada Dam and related projects sets equally deaf tone for a public policy.

India's power shortage is for real. But rather than opting for public participatory, cheap, decentralized alternative energy options (micro-solar plants and mini wind mill farms for example) and stemming of transmission losses; India continues its disastrous energy policy of centralized plants with uneconomic technology. It is shame that there are no signs of abating this wrong path regardless of who is in power.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Is American Media seeing it through?

"Despite his best efforts, there was no reason to be fooled about Mr. Cuccinelli’s real agenda in 2002. And there’s no reason to be fooled now."


There can be no more devastating indictment of a politician than this one - folks in media are not going to be fooled by a politician's talk.

I think WaPo Editorial Board has nailed it here - those politicians who actively go for "fooling people" to ram through their ideological agenda; Americans would not tolerate any more.

May be, may be; as more and more of American Media sees through designs of these politicians, we all might be better off. After all not all 'talks across the aisle' are futile.