Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Political Slug-fest - House Republican Style

What a timing! All six years these Republicans blamed Obama for Economy and now that Economy is showing some strength, of course they are not going to give any credit to Obama. Instead they are on their way for 'impeachment'!

It is hard to believe House GOP's words that they would not 'impeach' Obama. Think when GOP would capture Senate and keep House, which is what is most likely, in November 2014. They will perceive that as wind on their back and will proceed to impeach Obama. Especially, if by then Obama has undertaken executive orders on Immigration.

In some sense, GOP knows that on Immigration, they are in bind as Obama will unleash executive actions. So all this drama of law suite, precursor to impeachment, is GOP's noisy attempt to drown impeding executive actions on Immigration. For Obama, sticking to his plan and not hesitating on Immigration will be a good policy and good politics even though few speculate about negative electoral impacts of such executive actions.

J. Bernstein scoffs any talk of extreme polarization in American Politics. He does not see anything wrong there. I would agree with him in some sense, as scorched earth politics by political opponents is nothing new in contemporary democracies. Next, then he asks what institutional reforms can be done so these things can be changed? Model for me is Indian Elections - even though victor would get 30 to 40% of votes, decisive majority is awarded and that makes a room for the victor, essentially a blank check. Let Tea Party rule America for a while - may be this country needs to experience how myopic - rich favoring, gold standard demanding, zero deficit - policies of Tea Party are. May be unless this country has experienced disaster policies of Republican Party and experienced catastrophic economic down turn due to those policies; we Americans would not come to senses what non-sense GOP is talking. In other words, all this 'checks-and-balances' in American System are not serving America well. It is a slow bleed, no progress, everyone unhappy situation today in America.

And what are the ways by which such a decisive mandate will be awarded to the victor in American system? Essentially adopting contemporary Californian system: 
- independent citizen's committee to draw electoral districts (both at Federal and State level) and

That is one path to whip up something useful out of political slug-fests. Today these slug-fests do not produce anything useful for Americans.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

France: Business First

As expected reports are reaching that after all, Europe will not be able to put any meaningful deterrence to Putin's Russia. Case in point is French sale and delivery of helicopter carrier to Russia. Given events of last week, supplying more sophisticated weapons to Russia defies common sense. But that is exactly what seems to be happening when across the political spectrum, French Political class seems to back delivery of weapons to Russia. It is typical of France to 'kill entrepreneurship' by 70% taxes and then to come back to hold some paltry employment by selling weapons to rogue states - wow, that is some Socialism!

Rather than joining hands for a forceful united European response, nations in Europe are bickering and blaming each other. Each nation is resorting to centuries old tradition of pursuing their own respective corrosive financial interests with Russia while undermining European Unity. America and the world cannot do war with Putin's Russia which is armed to teeth with nukes (same as America). The only chance rest of the world has in forcing Russia to change its policy and behavior is economic sanctions which need two things to work:
- united approach and
- patience for long term.

What Europe is saying is due to their 'short term concerns'; no effective way is available to force alter Russian activities. 

Substantial European history can be read as how Europeans tolerated 'trouble makers' when they should not have in the first place and then how those 'trouble makers' go on rampage to create global havoc. Russian President Putin is precisely fulfilling that role of the trouble maker and once again Europe is failing to demonstrate an effective, resolute response.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Shooting Down Malaysian Airliner

As usual with a caveat that we do not have full details here and opinions expressed are subject to change based on new details. My first impressions are:

- Russian President Putin might not have obviously ordered this attack, but his actions have made it possible. Without the active encouragement to militants in Ukraine and supply of capable weapons, this tragedy would not have happened. Killing of innocent third party people without any provocation - essentially that will be construed as the act of Terrorism or even worse, the act of War. Putin's devil mind is all exposed here - he may not be able to control the tiger he is trying to ride in encouraging militants in Ukraine.

- Pakistani intelligence service ISI supported terrorists to disturb India, but in the end ISI cannot ride the tiger. May be the same things are at play here.

- Regardless of to what an extent culpability of Putin gets established, politically he is on defense. Who wants to be associated with a strong man who mindlessly encourages militant activities to destroy whatever global order we have today?

- Will Obama Critic learn the lesson that 'handing weapons' to resistance forces (Syria) is no joke because any time these weapons land up doing this type of carnage, people inevitably turn on the supplier of those weapons. President Obama's reluctance to provide weapons to various 'resistance forces' all across the globe now looks lot more prudent and valid. (Oh, don't expect Republican to stop criticizing Obama...they will find new reasons.)

- Hillary Clinton was right on dot when she called out Europeans to stop being 'chicken' here and stand up to shenanigans of Putin (is the most powerful lady in the world - Chancellor Merkel - listening?) Very rarely Europe has seen such an open aggressive posture by a dictator after Adolph Hitler. If Europe does not wake up from the bribes of dependencies on "Russian Gas and access to Russian Market" we are potentially talking same mistakes as like in pre-WWII times when Europe tolerated aggression of Hitler. That did not end well, for sure Putin is exhibiting all signs of intransigence of that caliber in these acts.

- Ideally what needs to happen is International Co-operation hunts down those who shot the plane, those are tried in Ukranian court, punished accordingly and weapon supplier of these 'plane shooters' (quite possibly Putin's Russia) compensate families of victims.

- What would happen though? Putin and Russia will deny any culpability in this affair despite mounting evidence, Europeans will make right noises but may not rise to the occasion in opposing Putin's Russia and the world may get even more rudder shock in days to come.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Germany - The Known Super Lord of Soccer Planet

Though Argentina played well, German's were clearly the deserved Team to lift the Cup. They played solid, fluid and good soccer through out the tournament. It is unlikely that anyone in the world except Argentinians will be upset with this result. Argentina should not be so upset though. They played very well in the tournament and even in the final with their performance, they should hold their heads high. 

Overall the Cup was a success for FIFA and Brazil as the host did step up and handled the responsibility very well.

FIFA gets one more solid 'footage' in its cherished history books of global joy.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Let True Brazilian Catharsis Begin

Let me be frank - I wished for Brazilian team to lose and I am delighted that the nation got the exact medicine the doctor ordered. Why?

- To start with, the Brazilian team played extremely poor on two occasions - against a talented team like Chile and then again another solid team Columbia. Against Columbia, the Brazilian team was especially vicious and way too much physical, not worthy of a champion. What all that showed is the current Brazilian team has been more of 'gas' than real talent, real skills and real team. They were simply not there. 

- So to pretend otherwise and to project the aura of invincibility was a way to play on emotions of Brazilian common people. That bubble needed to be burst since Brazilian Football has descended to faking injuries, expressing extravagant emotions on field and in general being more dramatic than warranted on playground. Brazil forgot that people do not watch soccer for Histrionics, but watch soccer for skill, athleticism and sportsmanship.

- As a nation Brazil'a leaders committed the nation to USSR and China model: to proclaim the political superiority, to garner political advantage; deploy sports. When any nation tries to tie the manifest destiny of that nation to successful organization of a global competition and winning that; that nation is essentially trying to take its own people on a ride. We all know when Empires try to entertain and divert their citizens' attention by organizing Gladiator Games, those Empires do not end well. President Lula (my favorite and I still respect for what he did to eradicate Brazilian poverty) displayed hubris when he decided vindication of his achievements was in spending Billions to conduct World Cup and Olympics back to back. He let Brazil to participate in the 'con game' of IOCs and FIFAs of the world who want to spend Billions of tax payer dollars as a tool of political rulers in diverting attention of subjects from the pressing needs and items. That is what has been wrong with Brazil's love affair with Soccer and World Cup extravaganza (thought Brazil did a marvelous job in staging fantastic football through out the competition).

With this humiliation by Germans in Semifinal, hopefully, Brazilians in general will start asking tough questions - why the Soccer Party has been prolonged so long by the rulers, elites and haves of that country? Is it to hide what 'excesses of socialism' inflicting on that country? Why is it that a common Brazilian should look her redemption in bunch of players winning a 90 minutes game and not in actual and concrete improvements in her life?

President Lula had his time, his politics worked then and helped lot of Brazilians in many respects. For President Dilma Rousseff to continue on that path without showing any 'out of box' thinking for changing circumstances was simply ineptitude. (Snubbing an American President for run-of-the-mill-espionage can only take you so far.) We have no idea whether Brazilians would embrace this reality by removing Dilma. But what Brazil can do is to look at life beyond Soccer. And that will be the best legacy of this loss for Brazil

Sunday, July 06, 2014

America at 238th Birthday

No doubt America faces some serious challenges. Nation's birthday is an appropriate time to go over some of these challenges:

- The fiscal situation may be under control and Obama Administration can rightfully claim that it would leave finances of Federal Government in much better shape than what the administration inherited. But long term sustainability of Federal Government finances is still an issue. Long term financial pressures put by Social Security and Medicare are still not addressed, especially starting 2020 onward. True that ObamaCare would help control growth of Medicare and help overall reduce our health expenditure. But still serious reforms are needed in these two entitlement programs if our finances are not to be swamped.

- Substantial number of Americans think that 'government is the problem' and instead of trying to improve governance and government agencies; too many powerful folks in America are busy 'starving the beast'

- Across the board, income and asset inequality is increasing with larger and larger share of wealth creation accruing to super rich.

- Our economic interests are trenchantly misaligned with  what we need to stop global warming: substantial constituency is vested in growth of Carbon based energy sources; namely oil, coal and natural gas sources.

- Fixing our immigration system so as those who might have come illegally in this country but over the years have contributed enough, can claim citizenship. Also we want a system in a place so that neither hoards of kids get lured to our penetrable borders nor we discourage the exact kind of talent this country needs to nurture for its future. 

- Our electioneering rules have been so twisted that Big Money is completely distorting 'will of people' when it comes to representation. Corporations are 'indeed people' with more than one 'vote' in American system!

- The burden of being Global Cop and paying for peace and order all over is becoming unbearable for America. American People are unwilling for any sacrifices in this area whereas Politicians and policy elites are yet to catch up fully with the voter fatigue for such adventures.

- Finally many historical vagaries which leave our Political System unrepresentative in so many ways still remain unresolved: tiny states having same number of senators as huge states like California, House Majority going to a party which actually has less votes than minority, we can have a president who would have lesser votes than his lost rival and Supreme Court justices lording over American life indefinitely while every other government office is term limited.

Question is which one of these challenges American Politics is capable of addressing.

When our Entitlement Program would start biting Federal Finances I think Republicans will be able to 'cut' down it drastically. It would unfairly burden poorer Americans; well, exactly that will be all 'the motivation' for Republicans! That is what their History has been since Reagan and in recent years rise of Paul Ryan, who is even more viciously after poor, confirms GOP ability to use a machete. True, Paul Ryan and his gang in GOP is after welfare spending and is for protecting Entitlement Programs of recent retirees (dominantly older White Americans who are one of the prime constituencies for today's GOP). But the point is, GOP will by hook or crook, cut down entitlement and welfare expenses when needed. The damage will be to poorer people. With no regard whatsoever to increasing inequality, more importantly increasing inequality of opportunity; it is given that as and when American State would go after balancing its finances, it will almost exclusively make American poor to pay more. The misplaced faith in 'trickle down economic policy' and 'rich as job creators' prevents this country in opening up opportunities for poor as well as cushion the blows of economic hardship. America needs investment in physical and social capital, at times clearly by deficit spending, but we are unable and unwilling to take it and that will continue to leave us vulnerable for 'pitch fork'.

President Obama also understands how the unfinished business of regulating Too Big to Fail Banks leave us exposed to 'bubbles and market distortions' even after Frank-Dodd. Those distortions, rich favoring tax policies and CEO Worshiping culture are reasons for continued inequality in this country. But so long as Republicans are 'enthralled by tax cuts for rich and unfettered trickle down economics'; there is less chance for America to stop this 'downward spiral of Capitalism' peacefully, democratically.

Add to that business interests of likes of Koch Brothers fully aligned with Carbon based energy sources. Substantial wealth and employment in states like Texas and Oklahoma come from Carbon based energy sources. No wonder these forces deny 'man made global warming'. Unless and until our politics is ready to take on such conflicts head on, our Politics will not resolve issues we need it to resolve. Add to that Supreme Court allowed Koch Brothers of this country to influence or buy elections as they please. What hope we are supposed to have then that we could tackle the impeding Global Warming through democratic means? President Obama might have done what is possible for him via EPA ruling. But he will be gone in 2 years or so and the question is what would our politics do to address global warming there after? Looks like not much.

One of the most disheartening part of this country's politics is, the very people for whom the politics is lot consequential remain apathetic in many ways. Agreed, that is the failure of leadership in general. But Barack Obama did arose people twice - Americans voted him more with the view of going away from Bush and stopping 'damage and misery' promised by Mitt Romney when he talked '47% of this country are on dole'. Probably that might happen again - America will yet again coalesce behind Hillary, but that will be more because they will be in horror for the 'damage' Senator Cruz, Senator Paul or other Republicans aspirants are promising on poor in the name of 'correcting our ship and encouraging growth'. That is not good. We need positive agenda which will address our problems head-on and not some kind of surrender to ideology, nor voting to the candidate while 'holding our nose' because the other guy (it is always a guy with Republicans) is so nasty.

Beyond ideology, it is 'nativism' and simple pandering to White voters of Caucasian descend; that is what is making Republican Party to stick to its neanderthal views about Immigration. And some Republican pundits advise that passing Immigration bill is no good because overwhelming Hispanic vote would still go to Democrats. Unless Republicans get complete thumping in 2016 due to Hispanic votes (and Dems have done their homework of highlighting how exactly GOP, especially in House,  is not supporting any immigration bill); America is unlikely to see any wiser Immigration policy. 

Next about campaign finance: Congress passing laws to restrict campaign finance is one way to reduce corroding influence of Big Money in our elections. But then again those laws need to be palatable to Conservative Majority in Supreme Court. All that means, unless nation's highest court sees lesser ideologue judges or we get a constitutional amendment; we are stuck with the havoc big money plays in our elections. Such a change in Supreme Court and improvements in our electioneering system; those are kinds of changes which look far uncertain at present and till then our Republic will continue to suffer.

Finally for the global cop role, as more and more Americans see the vanity of American Exceptionalism posture, the state will be eventually able to avoid underwriting entire globe's peace and order without compromising our national security. American voters are ahead here. Question is at what point our politicians in Washington DC would get the clue. Till then the danger of America getting embroiled in one more needless conflict overseas is still there.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

World Cup - USA Run Ends

Belgium were simply superior Team today. The score could have been 5-1 or 7-1, only because of the goalie Howard it stayed at 2-1.

But USA should be proud of what they have done so far. We keep trying. Remember Mexico has been eliminated 6 consecutive times in the second round; this time not so fairly as well.

Klinsmann, well done and Team USA we LOVE YOU!

Keep rolling over the years. One defeat does not pull us down - we are Americans!

I would not venture into reading winds of History in a tournament of 30+ days or so. But NYT columnist Roger Cohen is up to something. Facebook had Billion Plus interactions about World Cup midway through the tournament. Billions are watching these enthralling games all over the globe. 

If we humans are to change and get the singular, unitary feeling of belonging and togetherness - I doubt anything is coming anywhere near to FIFA World Cup. The cup has been every bit phenomenal and life long to cherish. Pure bliss so far and for sure to come.