Sunday, June 22, 2014

Bobby Jindal - A twisted mind

One can understand a political opponent would always try to find faults of a ruler. That is the job of political opposition anyways. But ever since Bobby Jindal gave one rebuttal - that too a failed one - to President Obama's joint address to Congress, he thinks it is his sacred duty to keep criticizing President Obama no matter whether that criticism makes any sense or it is any useful for Americans. Rather than casting himself in the role of President's Political Opponent when nowhere he is politically that adept, despite Obama having never manned a lemonade stand - Bobby Jindal should have focused on his state governance and his competitors in GOP for 2016 Ticket. His approval ratings are poorer than President Obama. "Who can bash President Obama most" - such a political approach can only be effective so long; it is diminishing returns now going forward as Obama Presidency starts winding down.

However, the serious problem is substance of Bobby Jindal's criticism. To start with he waged a war with ObamaCare for years; bashing it all the time without offering any better alternatives. Eventually, like most of the critics of ObamaCare, Bobby Jindal is all wrong. ObamaCare is here to stay and it is making difference in lives of Americans for good. Jindal's ego is too big to undertake any revisions in that department even if in the process few thousand Louisianians would not get adequate medical coverage.

But Jindal's real stupidity is in 'sucking up' to creationism and towing the line of extreme Christian-ism when he claims that Tea Party folks are going to take pitch fork and charge on Washington; all because President Obama is chocking religious freedom! Religious freedom in America allowed Hinud family born Piyush Jindal to convert to Roman Catholicism and here he implies that Obama Administration is creating an environment where such freedoms will not be enjoyed.

Just because Jindal converted to Roman Catholicism does not mean he needs to veer to politics where his arguments essentially sound as 'proselytizing' attempts. One can understand political compulsions in speaking in front of some faith based organization. One can also understand political compulsions in catering to faith based interest groups in Republican Politics. But for that if a politician invents 'suppression' where none exit, it is a jump too far. What a troubled soul Bobby Jindal is! 

But something else might be going on here. Jindal's whole Politics looks like an attempt to cover his original sin - opting for Christian faith for political purposes assuming that the only path in American Politics for a Hindu boy would be to become Christian. It is such a poor judgement about America and America's system which has inspired numerous Democracies all over the world (India included) to keep Religion separate from State and that poor judgement is possibly making Jindal to take an increasingly extreme tone to demonstrate his allegiance to Christian America.

In today's America we have members of Congress who took the oath holding Hindu Scripture Gita instead of Bible. Americans are fine with that. However, in Jindal world, probably he wants all non-Christian Americans to give up their faith and follow his example in converting to Roman Catholicism and further adopt the non-sense of creationism! We all like Pope Francis, but even he would not dare say what 'non-sense' Jindal is spouting. How lowly these politicians can become to curry favors with some interest groups!

Jindal does not articulate a political vision which is inclusive and which would solve our today's problem. He is caught up in his mental game of "to be American means to be Christian" and essentially he is reducing all of his politics to that. (It will be interesting to see how strongman Indian PM Narendra Modi would receive converted Christian like Jindal when Modi himself would address American Congress...). Jindal has been 'cheap intellectually'; complete anti-thesis of most in Indian-American community in USA - the community which essentially earns its living by practicing Science and Engineering, the community which perfectly brings best of Indian tradition of not mixing Religion with State and the community which would abhor the politics of gimmick arguments. In Bobby Jindal's politics; all this great heritage of Indian-American up-bringing is lost completely. Though Jindal was born in this country, one wonders what 'value system' his family environment passed on to him when he displays such despicable political views, attempts to sale politically a fictitious American world view and turns to demagoguery to achieve his political aims. What a twisted mind.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Iraq

"while Biden may have taken a beating repeatedly in recent years for some foreign policy calls he’s made, his judgment on Iraq’s capacity to stay one country now looks almost prescient."


As the news started to come about how Kurds took the opportunity in gobbling Kirkuk and consequently its Oil field while Sunni insurgents assemble their Caliphate on the backs of millions of dollars stolen from Mosul Banks and extortion rackets; it reminded me the then ridiculed Joe Biden plan - to divide Iraq along Sectarian lines. Unless the Sunni Caliphate collapses on its contradictions or Shiite are able to mount a challenge on backs of Iran or Kurds become magnanimous in giving back the Iraqi territory; there is very little chance of assembling back a broken egg into a whole egg - Iraq. In other words, what Biden sensed - undeniable power of sectarian pull making it unable for that country to exist - is quite possibly becoming a reality. 

60 years back Sectarian forces in the South Asian Sub-continent could not stop slaughtering of millions of people and birth of two rival states - India and Pakistan; so we are aware power of sectarian forces in impoverished societies. But then again the important State - India - is getting its act together and has a chance to redeem. So may be the case when Kurds would show the way to rest of the people.....I digress.

***

Democrats are exactly right to lay the blame of disintegrating Iraq at the feet of Iraqi PM Maliki - he destroyed a united country while serving interests of his Shiite masters - in Iraq and Iran. So much for the wisdom of those religious leaders.

For President Obama to withhold any help in achieving 'united Iraq' until major Iraqi political players undertake some serious core adjustments - that is exactly American Leadership needs to insistent upon. It is OK that many Republicans enjoy cheap shots against the Commander-in-Chief at this point, after all 'politics aren't beanbags'.

We all understand dangers of a vicious militant group like ISIL. After all Talibans did not directly declare Jihad against America but still landed harboring OBL who cost us so much. No doubt, to that extent ISIL is dangerous for all Open and Free Societies.

But ISIL has not declared any war against USA, yet. They are all busy trying to found some kind of a state.  (It is extra-ordinary that our Commander-in-Chief has digested precisely these nuances.) Based on all of our understanding of successful Societies and States so far, we know that any attempts to found states on chicanery and extortion would only go so far. Quite possibly all those contradictions and competing fiefdom interests would eventually unravel ISIL. Given all that, the wise course for America is to be patient and wait until ISIL unravels itself (or finishes its war against Bashar al-Assad victoriously). Quite possibly America indeed would need to intervene, but let that be a choice to "complete what is already underway" - process of unwinding ISIL. This means tactically, Administration and American Public simply need to be patient instead of going for any knee-jerk reactions.

***

In the event of ISIL keep prevailing over its enemies, what can America do? Well, there is yet another deal possible - since Shiite Ayatollahs draw a red line at defending Shiite holy sites of Karbala, Najaf and Samarra; what Administration can say to Iranians is that it will help Iraqi Government forces against ISIL in lieu of Iran showing more willingness to adopt the impeding nuclear deal. Apparently that is what elected leadership of Iran is willing to consider as well and that is in longer term interests of this country.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Bring Your Majorities

Ted Cruz whips up his Texas supporters by giving the war cry of "let us whack Washington DC". What he omits telling his supporters is it no good winning the White House unless they bring their own 'majorities' in Senate and House. And that is what is broken with the political system of this country.

In Parliamentary Systems, leaders bring their own majorities. As a result, one way or the other changes in the system are swift and people get a chance of seeing enactment of policies on which elections were fought. These leaders are then hold accountable too since they do not have any room to hide, what with those majorities.

By design and by calcification of American Political System, there is no such clarity in American System. On top of it, Americans have 'sky high expectations' from the White House occupant, especially by Conservatives. Barack Obama famously lost his majorities early in his term and ever since then he has been pilloried all along as a pinata from both sides - Conservatives want White House to continue global interventionist policies of Bush era even when neither Congress or Americans have the appetite to do anything such. As a result we land up in such a contradiction - White House pursues policies which Americans actually want (stay away from the mess outside USA); but because of American's view about what their leader can / should do, they feel Barack Obama is letting them down in holding up American Exceptionalism. True, as a leader it is the job of President Obama to educate Americans that he is essentially doing what they elected him to do. But more than this communication failure on behalf of White House, issue is American ethos is to continue the myth of Super Powers of Oval Office. Wall Street Journal Editorial, Robert Kagan and that brand of Conservatism is all wrapped in some mythological "Morning in America" stunts of one President Ronald Regan and they are simply not ready to go away from it regardless of changed world. (Chinese Economy surpassing American is not a fault of any one White House...) Essentially what these conservatives want is whatever political support left of President Obama (40%+ approval rating), he should burn that to undertake adventures aboard (and in the process come to George Bush levels of approval rating - 18 to 20%). In other words, these Conservatives want President Obama to become politically bankrupt in pursuing their wet bed dreams abroad. Probably in books of these Conservative Pundits, if any approval rating / political capital left for an American President means that President did not try enough adventures! Going politically broke is the only thing acceptable to this lot.

On the other hand, Left loves to ignore absence of working Democratic majorities in Congress and continues to blame White House even if it undertakes right steps. As Jonathan Chait explains, routinely Left wants to hold President Obama responsible for things which are not in his control as far as Environmental Agenda goes and blame him for not doing sufficient. Same for Immigration - blaming President Obama while ignoring dynamics in the Congress (Republicans see little upside in passing any immigration bill since they have concluded that passing of any such reforms would not result GOP getting additional Latino votes).

The way money is raised for elections (essentially candidate does the bull work and party is hardly in the position to influence this money flow), the way candidates are selected / elected through primaries for the general election, off phase election cycles (every two years House, one third Senate and presidential every four years), deep differences in how each state carves out house district as well as primary system (like in California it is possible to have top two candidates from the same party whereas in most other states it is the legacy system); all these contribute to a political power which is simply unable to effect any changes. Add to that deeply entrenched view of Americans that our Founders intended such 'checks and balances' system rather than clear 'power' to a single agent. 

What all this means is for effective legislative agenda enactment - inciting crowds against Washington DC is not sufficient. Unless tomorrow's leaders bring their own majorities, they would have to otherwise settle into Obama model only - all 'ones' and 'twos' and no home runs (even though his last week of 'ones' was not that bad - EPA ruling against carbon emission, freeing an Americans soldier and economy eventually recouping all of jobs lost in the recession).

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Market Forces and Multi-tenancy

One of the core features of contemporary Web based back-end softwares have been ability to support multiple, different set-ups - tenants. SalesForce does that, Amazon does that. Most Business to Business Web / Cloud based Services do that. There is a reason for offering such 'multi-tenancy' on these cloud based software platforms - it is the economies of scale and one single point to roll out new services and features to all your major customers. That is what basic capitalism is - scale.

If someone were to say there are 50 websites each offering a service for a restricted geographical area, it will not be nothing new when only few of these websites remain in business after a while and some of the more able websites start to cater more than one geographical areas. After all web sites can serve folks spread out anywhere in the world; that is Internet. 

These are the basic lessons of 'market forces' in Internet era which are lost on American Politicians completely - both Democrats and Republicans. All these politicians when they crow about 'state ObamaCare exchanges moving to Federal Exchange'; they show the basic lack of how otherwise American Economy works in Internet era. Politicians are never good when it comes to understand Technology or Digital Economy. (Oh well, they can as well excuse themselves by saying "man, I am not a Technologist"....) But hardly there can be any more prominent example of 'flat feet American Politicians' than how they are reacting to the reality of most efficient way of conducting exchanges in one single portal. I guess one would not be surprised by these American Politicians who do not even want to accept the Science of Global Warming (nope, stick up that politically correct Climate Change with you....).

What amazes me is how Democrats are not able to argue 'market forces' reality here - an efficient portal (Federal one) trumps over many state owned inefficient ones. This is what Capitalism is all about - let invisible hand of Market weeds out inefficient endeavors. And talking of which, this would be one of the cruelest revenge on these Republican States who refused to create their own portals: by allowing their state users to use the Federal Portal they basically gave 'those eyeballs' to Obama! Talk about complete stupidity of these Republican Politicians - they all got enamored by Tea Party 'repeal ObamaCare' craziness while the real consumers of ObamaCare in their own State quietly migrated to the Federal portal - to the 'dark side' from Republican point of view. Like California, states like Texas and Florida have the necessary 'scale' to run an independent viable state exchange. But ObamaCare hate prevented these states from venturing into their own state exchanges.

Time and again it is proven that Republican impulse to 'oppose whatever Obama' lands them undercutting their end objectives; in this case stopping a single, centralized health exchange. Now that the ball is dropped from Republicans, what they can do is increase the 'heat' on over zealous Democrats in states like Oregon and Maryland who goofed their own State Exchanges. Hundreds of millions of tax dollars were wasted by these State Governments. IT Projects are notorious to pull off and at best of times even Private Sector fails to pull off such vast IT Projects. But Politicians, especially Democrats, have tendency to undermine complexity of such projects and wading into the area where they had no business to get involved. That is the Conservative case to be made and Republicans have a job on their hands to hold feet of Democrats in states like Oregon and Maryland to the fire.

Meanwhile, having salvaged Federal Exchange Portal and ObamaCare to certain extent, job for Obama Administration is to undertake over haul of how Federal Digital Infrastructure Projects are procured and executed. Any State which acquires this ability to execute these public IT Projects in efficient manner would essentially lay down solid infrastructural foundation in 21st Century. It is to be watched whether Obama Administration rises to this challenge after all.