Monday, October 31, 2016

2016 American Election - Continued Commentary #7

Looks like Florida is slipping away from Hillary. 

Republicans are coming home in droves and early voting numbers are spiking for Trump while Hillary is lagging in African American votes. Equally Millennials are NOT coming back for Hillary, at least not yet. Case in point California early vote is 'way down compared to Obama votes in 2012'. Remember California was strong Sanders performance place and as I talk with youngsters in this state, they are still not accepting Hillary. 

All in all things are grim for Hillary at this point. Trump voter suppression is working for African American voters while younger generation is simply reluctant to consider consequences of Trump Presidency. Hillary only has a week to change this. She has effective surrogates like Obamas, Sen. Warren, Sen. Sanders; but looks like those are either not effectively deployed or those surrogates are not making the difference.

President Obama said he would avoid what happened in 2014 when Democratic vote did not come in the Midterm election. But seems like he is not able to avoid the repetition of that lower turnover. Hillary getting 270+ electoral votes without Florida is very unconvincing victory for her setting the tone for the talk of illegitimacy. At this rate it is very hard to believe Democrats can even wrest Senate from Republicans and House was never in the play. Of the Democratic Voter Turnover Machine, only Latino's and Asian Americans are working for her while failure in other components seems to take this election from Democrats. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Commentary - What does Trump Presidency mean?

You have Ross Douthat making a compelling case how nightmarish the Trump Presidency will be. His point about 'sanctioning actions of countless racist Americans as well as rationalizing mistreatment of women' is very scary but right. If what Sen. Harry Reid and others are speculating is right - we are talking here collusion between Trump and Putin; throwing Germans and others under the bus. That will be one big invitation to legitimizing non-democractic rule of Putin. No wonder, the world over people will start looking Xi' China more favorably. Overall democratic systems globally will get undermined. One can imagine the club of Putin, Trump, Sisi, Erdogon occasionally joined by Xi. That will be an open invitation to global instability across the board.

Jonthan Chait lays bare open these 'authoritarian instincts of Republican Party'. For me the greatest wonder is how Evangelical Christians are tolerating all this degradation of democracy and decent political norms - all for the sec of a Supreme Court justice who will overthrow Roe vs Wade. 

American Voters need to understand the dire consequences of Trump Presidency. These articles do a good job. Only problem is when Trump and Republican Party have reduced American Politics to a reality TV show; sufficient number of American Voters might not read these articles as well as may not make the informed decision in this election. That is the real danger. 

Suddenly, the world has entered in a much risky period.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Gnashing of Teeth for FBI Boss Comey

It is understandable that Hillary backers will be aghast on new FBI disclosure, especially given that election has been already tightening even before this news breakout. But gnashing of teeth and endless hyperventilation - to the extent of providing an appropriate diction for FBI letter! - is ridiculous. Hillary and her campaign chief said that FBI should release more information and her campaign should leave those matters there. [1]

The core political issue here is Hillary showed a bad judgement, she owned it and it is time for Americans either to accept her mea culpa or reject. What Hillary and her campaign rightfully need to do is, to point out how horrible the other choice is - Donald Trump.[2] When FBI refrained from any prosecution of Hillary for the private email server, it decided so on 2 accounts:
- no evidence that any national security information has been compromised [3];
- fundamentally there was no intent on Hillary's part to compromise any national security data. 

The 'intent and willful acts' is very important for any legal prosecution. Bad judgement and all that, it is a purely political issue. And that is where Donald Trump comes into the picture. Apart from couple of cases in courts, Donald Trump has not yet been convicted for breaking a law; or at least that is not known to larger American Public including me. However, when it comes to bad judgement, his life story is littered with those: both on professional count and on personal count. Hillary should have much easier argument here and that is the part of her argument that Donald is not suitable temperamentally for this job.

And finally, about policies: to start with Donald has not spelled out much clearer policies and the ones he talks[4]; those are patently wrong. Hillary ought to make that argument. But one gets a feeling that to the extent Obama argued successfully against Romney in 2012 policy debate, Hillary has not emphasized this part well. Her campaign has build successfully on sexually predatory way of life of Donald to portray his politics as 'assault on women' and that is all powerful. But one would have liked to see more of policy debate given that Hillary's set of prescriptions is much superior. Unlike 'attack on women' issue, Hillary campaign has not highlighted much the 'dictatorial dangers' of Trump Presidency. 

Still, Trump's shortcomings are too big and he is simply not prepared for the office. Despite Hillary's travails of email saga, Americans are safer with Hillary's choice as the 45th president . For around last 2 years, 2016 campaign has been running. More than $2 Billions have been spend for sure. The World and America have got all information that one needs to make the decision at this point. Even after all that, if we find more Americans prefer Trump over Hillary, then American Society must face that music; hair splitting on one FBI letter - that is just a too small matter to bother about.

[1] - Can any person in this world guarantee that if FBI indeed discloses more information, it will not be further damaging to Hillary Campaign? The truth is of the original 30K emails which Hillary turned to State Department upon deleting 10K personal emails; FBI rediscovered 15K emails. Of those, FBI accepted 9K as personal emails. But it meant 6K emails is what FBI found as 'un-reported emails'. Fundamentally, Hillary's mistakes are 2 in this email saga:

- First, the bad judgement of using a private email server. When big Corporations and huge Federal Departments with hundreds of millions of dollars of budget cannot guarantee any cyber-security, for Hillary to think she could do secure email communication with a private server is hubris. It is complete lack of knowing today's world, the same tone deafness Clintons showed in running the Clinton Foundation when all along they desired HRC to try the presidential run.

- Second problem is upon knowing the FBI inquiry, Hillary failed to turned in all emails to State Department. Deleting personal emails is understandable, though questionable; but how come FBI did find additional 6K emails which Hillary failed to return in the first place? That is the genesis of the problem in this case. Similarly, if indeed FBI finds additional new emails on Weiner computer which were not turned in the first by Huma; it can be even more devastating for Hillary campaign. 

[2] - Another Access Hollywood type revelation about Trump is very much a possibility, except that with every passing day it would look as a desperate attempt on behalf of Hillary Campaign. If such a revelation comes out via an independent source, that will be more credible. Or Hillary can simply 'bait' Donald and then he can chew that bone for the remaining days. Any of those possibilities are real and can happen to remove the Email item from the top of the news cycle. Alternatively another worldly happening - Mosul war against ISIS or a terror attack - all that is enough to overshadow 'email news cycle'.

[3] - It is truly surprising and infinitely lucky for Hillary that so far there is no leakage of any classified information given that how Wikileaks and Russian Hackers are making the havoc since then.

[4] - He has talked so far about building Wall, more tax cuts for rich, not allowing Muslims in the country, breaking NATO and allow proliferation of nukes around the world.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Aye Dil Hai Mushkil – How true!

- Uday Oak
Poor Majrooh Sultanpuri! When he wrote “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil…,” he wouldn’t have imagined that the refrain would come back after sixty years, in Nostradamus mode!

Karan Johar (KJo) as a film-director can be appreciated, tolerated or ignored, as per personal choice. Even Karan himself won’t be under any delusion that he is one of the important and/or meaningful film-directors of this time. He produces much better films (Kaal, Dostana, Wake Up Sid to name a few) than he directs.
So when his to-be-released film “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” caught up in a controversy, some cynics smelt ‘any publicity is good publicity’ kind of marketing gimmick behind it. As the events unfolded, it turns out that the said critics had their sinuses cleared and nose vacuumed, and had their sense of smell spot on before they smelt anything.
A bit of background needed here. On 18th September, ‘militants’ attacked an army camp in Uri, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. There were nationwide protests as usual. Then unusually, India went for ‘surgical strikes’ across the LOC, unilaterally declaring the operation and its success. Pakistan is still uncertain either about what exactly happened or about exactly how to react.
KJo was busy making a movie, abovementioned ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’. Slated for a Diwali release (THE biggest release opportunity for any film-maker in India), the film was already in post-production when the attacks happened.
Another sequence was playing out in the political arena. Shiv Sena, the coalition partner of BJP in Maharashtra, has been whining/roaring {action same; verb selected depending upon whether you are an independent observer or SS supporter} over ‘neglect’ by BJP. Even after two years, SS still hasn’t come to terms with the fact that BJP is ‘senior’ in the coalition now, by virtue of winning 122 seats against SS tally of 63.
With the BMC elections approaching, both BJP and SS are full time in muscle flexing and jibing.
Here the plot thickens and a subplot is introduced.
Raj Thackeray, the founder of the flyspeck political party, MNS, was desperately looking for an opportunity to prove to the cadre that the party is not defunct.
A side note here – Raj Thackeray is less of a politician and more of a socialite and businessman. He has excellent personal relations with the who’s who of Bollywood, including the Khan group.
So Raj Thackeray did some quick and realistic calculations (must have been a first for him!) and declared his opposition to the film. For good measure, he also trained his guns on another film, Raees, as well as all other (unnamed) films that employ Pakistani artists.
Here the CM of Maharashtra comes in, joining the plot and the sub-plot and the original plot. Phadnavis is a devout believer in Peter Principle and wants to prove beyond reasonable doubt that CM’s post is his level of incompetence. So half of his agenda is earmarked for getting scared that someone will attack him from below. The other half is devoted to worrying about what the bosses at the top would say and/or do. But these two activities are not full-time, and the leaders below and above are busy. So he has a lot of time on hands. He brought KJo and Raj Thackeray together for a summit, right at the Chief Minister’s official residence.

Another bit of background needed here. Raj Thackeray started his political career on a high, as a carbon copy of Bal Thackeray. He spiked his party’s fortunes in 2009 assembly elections by winning 13 seats, quite commendable for a three year old party. And in 2014 MNS was promptly reduced to one seat.
Raj is afflicted by the same disease that is in the DNA of the Thackeray clan – lack of philosophy and consistency. Raj raised his voice against the lack of transparency in awarding the toll contracts across the state. MNS workers kept a 24X7 vigil on all toll booths and collected real data. At the end of it, Raj gave a rousing speech in Pune (that lasted for barely 20 minutes), quoting heavily from the data collected and targeting the then PWD minister, Chhagan Bhujbal. And then? Nothing. Deadly quiet. Raj Thackeray lost more support through the silence than by any mindless utterances.
So, back to our complicated plots and sub-plots. Raj Thackeray enters the fray, threatens violent stir against ADHM (as the film has been referred to), CM gets him together with KJo, Raj Thackeray comes up with a solution that only a daft ‘patriot’ can come up with – (i) Pay INR 50 Million to the Army Welfare Fund (ii) Display a slate before the film show, giving tribute to the soldiers killed in Uri attack and (iii) No Pakistani artists will henceforth be allowed to work in Bollywood films.
Mukesh Bhatt, President, Film & TV Producers Guild of India, and KJo accepted the solution.
CM came up with a rock-solid, logical and rational explanation – if talks can be held with Hurriyat and Naxals, why not MNS?
This is a sweet deal for both the CM & MNS. CM gets to thumb his nose at Shiv Sena. MNS gets a much needed boost to get it up from its comatose condition. Shiv Sena gets a bitter carrot to chew (the ‘patriotic’ vote bank is now firmly tilted towards MNS) and the threat of a stick stinging its backside (if MNS gets in coalition with the BJP for the Mumbai Municipal Elections, SS will crumble like a super-stale cookie).
So the refrain of the song is prophetically true – O heart, it is really difficult!
And if all this is not enough, some ‘liberal artists’ have to come up and declare intellectual bankruptcy by chanting the sacred mantra – common man good, politicians (and ‘forces’) bad. This mantra ensures that your credentials as ‘liberals’ are established beyond doubt.
One question for such ‘liberals’ – let’s wholeheartedly accept their doctrine. Then where do the politicians and forces in Pakistan come from, if not from ‘common man’? Or are there two separate independent nations within Pakistan? That’s an interesting ‘two nation’ theory!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Hillary - Trump Final Presidential Debate

Source -
With the 3rd presidential debate in history books, the 'debate and public engagement' phase of 2016 campaign is over. What is left is 'turning on the base i.e. voter turnout'. Both Trump and Hillary went into this debate with a simple objective of 'turning on the base'. But for Trump to break the ceiling of 40% voter support, he needed to win remained undecided voters. Nothing in his 3rd debate performance would help him to win any additional votes while by not committing himself in accepting the election result he further pushed away new voters. In that sense, it is perfectly understandable why so many commentators are saying 'it is all over'.

Obviously Hillary cannot be over confident here and she has to say and behave such that "she keeps making efforts to listen Americans and persuade them for her presidency". But she and her campaign can now focus on the 'last mile execution'. Hillary is surrounded by people who will help her to keep focus on this 'execution'. [1] 

As usual, reams and reams will be written about this campaign. In general there is nothing to reject a common observation that this campaign has been nasty and in a large measure Donald Trump contributed to that. In the end, his candidacy is simply short of what is needed for the job of USA presidency. Hillary is not necessarily inspiring or without flaws; but she is simply "executing the campaign rightly and successfully". That is predictable. Hopefully those skills will help her in much harder part - governance.


[1] - Former Republican Governor candidate in California, CEO and Chairman Meg Whitman of HPE, was the prominent guest on Hillary's side. Whitman is an execution focused corporate chieftain, exactly the right type of talent Hillary would want to embrace.

Disclosure - I work for HPE.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Commentary: India’s singular failings at BRICS

Joint photo session of BRICS leaders [Courtesy:Wikipedia]
As the BRICS summit in Goa came to an end, the last few days have seen a spate of comments and analysis of the outcomes and gains for India. There has been it now seems a near unanimity among a wide range of commentators that the Indian single-mindedness over its agenda of targeting Pakistan, hoping to have it declared the ‘mother-ship ‘of terrorism as the Indian side put it, has proved ineffective in the best case scenario and positively damaging for India according to more critical analysts. The damage could in fact prove a long-term one as any attempt to reduce a global platform like BRICS to a narrow agenda can only backfire and muddy the future conversations. While India may feel betrayed by Russia over its silence at a moment when support was badly needed, Russia proved to be the real gainer, quietly receiving endorsement from the BRICS members on its labelling of the chosen groups in Syria as terrorist. India has come out of this episode as a petty-minded nation and a quarrelsome neighbor with an axe of its own to grind while other members appear to raise more vital global issues. Exactly how stupid India has been made to look is something only time will tell.

Among all the articles in the aftermath of the BRICS Summit, this one seems the most focused as it puts down a clear-cut list of mistakes and lessons the Indian government should be looking at in its future engagements with BRICS and other international forums. There was a time when it was Pakistan that seemed monomaniacally obsessed with India its global engagements and policy orientations. The diplomatic seesaw at BRICS in Goa has only made India seem like a small nation with petty niggling obsessions.       

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Stumpf, Wells Fargo and Wild West Capitalism

Source - Wells Fargo Stage Coach History
It is fitting that Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf who assumed all powerful Chairmanship of the board in the first year of Obama term ends his term in the last year of Obama Administration. John Stumpf started his leadership when his then powerful boss - Chairman Kovacevich called Federal Bank Stress Tests as 'asinine'. Wells Fargo was upset then that it was forced to buy Wachovia and was forced to accept TARP money. Some resistance from Wells Fargo bosses was expected because Wells Fargo had been one of the rare banks which was sure to avoid financial hits in 2008-9 recession. Wells Fargo had benefited from conservative banking practices evolved over decades. The bank had it's origins famously in Californian Gold Rush of 1849 - hence the romantic horse carriage with Gold borders as it's logo. Since then Wells Fargo has embodied the culture of profiting from 'arms race'. In a sense, that is the most successful and effective tradition of Capitalism. Stepped in that tradition, it was clear that Wells Fargo was bound to scale new heights during 2008-9 recession when other banking stalwarts were falling (Citibank notably). What was required then by the bank's leadership was  acquisition to the looming industry leadership role for Wells Fargo. Even more than JP Morgan and any other bank in the land at that time, it was evident to the market that Wells Fargo with it's strong balance sheet, solid focus on retail banking in lucrative area and much more controlled risk portfolio was the bank to assume the penultimate role in American Banking Industry.[1] However on the cusp of that leadership role, behavior of messers Kovacevich and Stumpf was likes of bunch of privileged rich big boys unwilling to accept any responsibility. Here was the bank which destined to enter the global stage when some contrite and leadership was required on-behalf of the industry, but its leaders played "nothing to do with us, don't destroy our little party going on without the world attention". I guess as like many other corporate titans, Wells Fargo brass had contempt only for the young Obama Administration which would not know anything about Capitalism in eyes of these 'masters of the universe'.

Wells Fargo has been my only personal banker in this country all along, for more than a decade. I am not a unhappy customer of the bank. But I always felt that this is the bank which would never hesitate to throw a small customer like me under the bus if that suited the bank. Three personal incidences stand out for me:

- During the 2008-9 recession, we were looking for some advise in setting up a 529 plan for our son with some corpus money. As usual the quality of the financial advise we got was very poor. It was just some homework from our side which helped us to avoid the risky bets which the bank representative was offering. It was clear that the representative was poorly prepared for the task and  worse, offering really risky choices to bank clients. Given the context of financial carnage happening in outside world, it was obivious that that financial representatives of the bank had no 'supervision'.

- Again during the recession of 2008-9 when I was inquiring about home mortgage finance with the bank; the mortgage expert asked me "why do I think Wells Fargo will finance this mortgage" implying that it matters little whether I have been doing business with them for over decade; what matters for the bank is whether my mortgage will make the bank enough 'mark up profit or not'. [2]

- Finally, I remember the period of 2012-15. Whenever we would visit a local branch, the staff would deluge us with offers to open new accounts (of any type, if you have one checking account, open another one for security reasons, as if the second one will be safe when the first account is hacked!). The greetings and engagements of the staff have been so artificial, so privacy intruding and so nauseating, that my daughter stopped coming to the branch altogether. It was clear that all that mattered for the branch staff was getting new accounts whether customers needed or not. The staff would behave this way only if its compensation is linked to opening of accounts and so clearly that is where the bank went going.

Self appointed guardian of American Capitalism - Wall Street Journal - may see resignation of John Stumpf as 'one hit' by Queen Elizabeth Warren. But keep aside whether Warren was right in demanding this resignation, the testimonies what John Stumpf gave in Congress were really poor and devoid of any leadership. Why was it hard for him to say that he will forgo his compensation for a year? He is already 'quarter billion' worth so there is no question of he cannot afford to forgo some 40 odd million dollars or so. I guess 'bankers and greed' - these two things are not separable in this world. The more 'near you are to money, more greedy you are'; that is the kind of wrong Capitalism American Banking Industry and many corporations in American are propounding.[3]

Truth is John Stumpf picked up this moment to resign because apart from the largest share holder of Wells Fargo - Warren Buffett - who might have pushed away this incompetent leader; after the 2016 elections, even President Donald Trump would not tolerate these bad poster children of Capitalism. Americans are revolting against the excess of Capitalism as is practiced today. May be Stumpf and Wells Fargo Board have realized that pulling down the failed leadership now, before the election, is much more cost-effective than the tsunami which may come after the 2016 American election.


[1] - I am a minuscule share holder of Wells Fargo as a part of IRA savings. But I can attest that gains by being a tiny, tiny share holder of the bank hardly compensates with the mistreatment one receives being a small customer.

[2] - On the same occasion, my humble credit union offered me a good deal for the mortgage. That saved me some money and far more, offered me the sense that after all I am not so worthless a customer for a bank.

[3] - Sure, White Male face of American Corporations is no good. But even some women heads of Corporations fall to same indulges: Theranos chief and daughter of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia; both are as loathsome as like any other white male CEOs of America. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The present state of caste in India

by Ratnakar Tripathy

Patidar reservation agitation 25 August Ahmadabad 
A lot of our conversation about the caste system in India is around the question whether the caste sentiment and consolidation have loosened or tightened over time and whether caste is here forever, to wither away only in the distant future.  The upper castes in the country feel that caste is no longer very relevant and is being perpetuated by the Dalits and the middle castes. Such an opinion does indeed suit the upper castes very much as they continue to enjoy many traditional and newly acquired privileges and also pretend that no such privilege exists and that their wealth and power is entirely an outcome of their merit and talent. This is a delusion with grave consequences. Any questioning of the privileged status of the upper caste will incense them and they are wont to feel wounded and victimized. They feel that they have bent low enough since the days of the freedom struggle and will not deign any further. Indeed the caste system in the Indian society is going through a strange phase when every caste feels victimized by the other. The sentiment of universal victimhood is not entirely new though it is being voiced at a scale and a pitch unheard before. It is important to make a clear admission that such a shift in caste sentiments has indeed taken place before trying to grasp its nuances and its impact on today’s political conversation or lack of it.

Dalits quite justifiably feel victimized by the upper castes and the middle castes and have exhibited intense impatience with the continuing unfairness and oppression faced in their daily lives. The middle castes feel victimized by both the increasingly vociferous Dalits and the upper castes, although lately by seeking more reservation they seem to target the Dalits more pointedly than the upper castes. The Jat agitations in recent months and the Maratha mobilization in Maharashtra are two such glaring instances. In fact the recent Maratha gatherings were remarkably huge at several sites and unlike anything we have seen in recent times. The upper castes on the other hand have managed to purge themselves of the guilt felt over the past injustices inflicted by them and the younger generations are largely convinced that they have conceded enough ground to everyone below them. The emotional landscape of the caste system in India is thus a riven one with several gulfs that need to be bridged to normalize an unhealthy psyche. The trouble is our political parties including the mainstream are no longer able to build these bridges. In the case of the BJP in recent years, it may even be claimed that the will to lay bridges is missing entirely and the party aims to instead widen the gulfs for electoral gains. The ideology of Hindutva which may give the impression of a united front of all the Hindu segments has proved in haste that apart from alienating the Muslims, Christians and other minority religions, it is playing a divisive role among the Hindu population itself since it stands solely for the upper castes and is just another label for Brahmanism ideology. The Congress on the other hand is clearly unable to play its traditionally balancing role in the fast changing caste scenario and is likely to be reduced to a thin spread all over the country.

The recent mobilizations among the Marathas in Maharashtra, of the Dalits under the leadership of Jignesh Mewani and the Patidars separately in Gujarat and that of Jats in Haryana and the great numbers involved illustrate the point well. The question however remains – what are the political implications of a massive confrontation that seems to be brewing at the grassroots level? Some analysts have tried to see at the core of the unrests a grave dissatisfaction with the flawed agricultural policies of the governments at the centre, and others have linked the varied phenomena to lack of job creation affecting the youth that may soon reach crisis proportions as incomes are depressed and aspirations rise. But it would seem that none of these voices have yet found a clear-cut political language that aligns with the dynamics of party politics in India today or neatly fit into it. This is not to deny the graveness of the socio-economic impact of the widespread murmuring that we hear from the remotest corners of the caste society. On the whole we can only wait and watch and listen to these voices as they take a clearer political shape and rise above the level of self-mobilization and turn into viable forces articulating their demands and political positions and thus boldly enter the arena of everyday party politics and the polling booths.  Victimhood and a sense of tremendous impatience with their predicaments are all that seem visible at this point.   

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Trump Lives for Another Day

That is my take. Obviously as Nate Silver mentioned earlier, he had done a good job of 'lowering the expectations' about his debate performance. But either he was prepared or he focused his mind in the second debate.

One thing is sure though - no Trump backer is going to feel bad or ashamed for supporting Trump after today's performance.[1]

Hillary seemed tired, tired of all the baseless accusations from Trump. She did not derelict in her duty of responding competently to Trump's responses, but clearly she gave the impression that "what do I say to this non-sense". But we know that, it does not play well in the end. 

The only thing which came out negatively for Donald Trump was that, he is still very ill prepared for policy questions facing the next president. He avoided answering many questions straight on, essentially he is "ill-prepared". I am not sure whether Donald Trump was able to clear out that impression, thought he seemed to nullify Hillary's temperament question. He did not loose himself as like in the first debate. 

For Hillary, Donald ensured that voters know she has 'skeletons in the cupboard'; albeit all those are exposed and there is nothing new there. To that end, she kind of overcame that weakness by displaying her earnestness about the policy and her constant theme of family first, children first.

So what is the net effect? Here are my thoughts:

- Foremost is you are unlikely to see more draining of GOP support after this debate. In that sense, Hillary Camp should be feeling good that it sowed the disunity in GOP before the debate as much as possible. It will not be easy, almost impossible, for Sen. McCain and Sen. Ayotte to rescind negation of Trump endorsements. Essentially Dems plundered GOP support for Trump as much as possible, before the debate. One thing is very likely, more damaging tapes or facts about Donald are bound to come in remaining weeks. That will essentially make Sen. McCain and Sen, Ayotte "I told you so". But, after today's performance; stanching of Trump support in GOP will happen. 

- Those GOP members who jumped the ship in last 48 hours, they will be extremely vulnerable to loose their elections.

- I doubt Hillary losses here. Her base support is strong, the arguments Trump is making are nothing new and seems hard that those will bring any new 'voters' to him. For sure Hillary did not deliver knock-out punch; but nothing damaging happened to her. It is just that she may not cruise to a landslide, but she ensured that she takes care of her base - case in point linking Energy Policy to Climate Change and showing her support for Second Amendment.

- If at all any Trump rally is there, it is unlikely to go over the winning the line. Why? For example, Trump completely lost in essentially supporting Bashar Assad. That is a loosing argument, expect more ads from Hillary in that regards.[2] Show one picture of dead body of a four year old boy washing ashore or images of havoc made by 'barrel bombs' thrown by Assad; there is no way you will win hearts and minds of any civilized society - including America. Trump completely bungled on Syrian question.

- The last question showed, and as both debaters answered it predictably but so well, that this country is crying for "unification". That was the most positive moment for America in many, many days. The person who asked that, he did a great service to this country and both contestants answered it very well - raising above the politics. No doubt, that was a softball, but a best saccharin moment. We as a country have fallen so low that any such iota of 'civility' enlightens us. We know in remaining days, that civility is unlikely to stay. But to demonstrate that Donald can be a leader to acknowledge positives about his fellow contestant - that is American. Hopefully, that will help to take this election campaign about issues rather than individual vices. 


[1] - For whatever worth my notes about how each fared about those 11 questions in the debate, here is my score card:                 
Question is as per my score keeping, Hillary seems to have won; then why do I not say so? Just to account for my bias in favor of Hillary. Reality is Donald has 'low bar' and what mattered is whether he clears that or not. Sure, it is 'grading on curve'; but face it - that is life. If else, Hillary Campaign should have taken the care of setting expectations low. When you are ahead in the political horse race, you do not get much favors.

[2] - Her equivocal answer for not putting boots in Syria will earn her ton of gratitude, and votes, from Sanders Base. 

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Trump Campaign - Farce and Tragedy

At this point it is very difficult to resist the assessment of Donald Trump as nothing but:

- a sexual predator who behaves in utterly disgusting manner with women,
- a failed businessman who pays no taxes for decades; and
- a clueless candidate with zero knowledge of grave policy quandary faced by this country.

Question is what next? One choice will be for Republican Party to replace Trump by Pence or someone. There are clear signs that many in Republican Party are feeling the 'heat of Trump' and those folks are abandoning him in droves. Question is will it become a big enough political movement which will actually throw Trump under the bus (deservedly) and move on with the conservative cause. 

I doubt.

It is far more safer play for traditional Republican Politicians to let Trump head the losing ticket but separate out their own electoral prospects. After all millions of Republican base have voted for Donald Trump.

Truth is that 'Republican base' is misguided. Getting into the business of 'educating that base' is too much of a work for these Republican politicians. Democrats - they cannot reach to those voters at all; they have been already shunted out.

And that is the tragedy of American politics. Just when Donald Trump would have forced Hillary Clinton to answer 'fate of those Americans' who are left behind by Trade; his own sexual urges are going to doom that class of Americans. Talk about the irony - it is no different than how Bill Clinton's sexual urges duped Americans by foisting Bush on America.

Well, there is always a woman to clean up the mess made by Boys. Hillary will have to do that job in this case.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Chikungunya – notes from the sick-bed

While growing up, the world of illnesses and diseases was reasonably simpler. Normal cough&/cold&/fever was the first step. Malaria was one step up. Hindi film industry had managed to mock it by rhyming it with a suitably coined word 'loveria'. Influenza alias Flu was more severe. Typhoid was the dreaded one.
Smallpox and chickenpox were deadly, but fifty years ago in (then) urban India, the vaccination was supposed to have mitigated them reasonably well.
Other ailments (migraine, colitis, appendicitis, diabetes, spondylitis, blood pressure) were considered to be a pain for a small group of patients and fiefdom of an even smaller group of doctors.
In the last couple of decades, four hefty thugs have completely disrupted the old disease-world order. Avian Flu, H1N1, Dengue and Chikungunya.
Of these four, I lived in mortal fear of the last three for quite a few years. Staying in Pune, there was no other option. Then I got Dengue a couple of years ago. But as luck would have it, I apparently contracted some mutated version. And believe it or not, the mutation had happened to decrease the severity. Contracting Dengue is characterized by drastic drop in platelet count, incessant high fever, hospitalization for weeks, debilitating weakness for months. Though my Dengue report was positive, I suffered neither of the aforementioned maladies. Had raging high fever for about 36 hours, got admitted to the hospital and the fever vanished. Stayed in the hospital 'under observation' for two days. And was out like Flynn.
The encounter with Chikungunya wasn't as simple.
It started with my wife contracting the disease and collapsing in a matter of hours. At 7:30 PM, she started feeling a little bit of pain in her knee. At 8:00 PM, she was unable to stand. She somehow reached home in an auto-rickshaw, and was unable to get down from it. And when she was finally carried in home at 8:30 PM, she occupied the sofa in the sitting room for straight 72 hours after that. Her right knee was swollen, burning hot and completely impervious to her commands. Her mother closely followed suit, with severe joint aches and fever, but was reasonably mobile.
The physician prescribed some aspirins, antacids, painkillers and vitamin tablets. He had already treated a dozen patients in the previous week, and had started getting a hang of the treatment. As he predicted, the blood test came negative for Flu, Malaria, Typhoid, Dengue and Chikungunya. The virus has mutated and doesn't show up in the tests; just continues wreaking havoc.
That was a month ago. Chikungunya claimed its next victim by shooting me down a fortnight ago. It was a crazy flip-flop. I started feeling shooting pain in the left knee and some surging fever around noon. I was to give a talk in the evening and wasn't sure whether I would be able to make it. Swallowed an aspirin and became horizontal. Fever vanished in less than an hour, but wrists started paining noticeably, along with the knee. No swelling. I was undergoing some dental treatment and was already on an antibiotic course.
My physician had become wiser in the meanwhile; he had added another couple of dozen patients to his list. He put me on the same regime of aspirins, antacids, painkillers and vitamins. The next day was bad. Movement near impossible, sleep vanished, pains unbearable. And next day was the worst. The day opened with pains beyond relief, typing a text message on cellphone was near impossibility. I was whining and groaning not unlike a top-loading washing machine in 'blanket' mode.
I have had a heart attack a decade ago. And I was desperately ready to sign an undertaking switching from Chikungunya to another heart attack. Even in hindsight, I haven’t changed my opinion. Heart attack necessitates a stay in the hospital (initially in CCU), no fever, no body-ache, people monitor you round the clock till you are out of danger and out of funds. But the way Chikungunya breaches the pain barrier is beyond description. Can you imagine a situation where you can't life a cup of coffee?
One feels absolutely helpless. The feeling that an overweight arthritic centurion with diabetes and a history of heart disease can beat you hands down in the 'chair to door walk' permeates your consciousness like an ink blot spreading on your favorite shirt.
Last month, at least in Pune, there have been cases and cases of Dengue and Chikungunya everywhere. Of course, the municipal corporation comes up with some immensely hilarious figures (‘58 people affected by Dengue’ was a claim; 58 people would be down with Dengue on one side of Prabhat Road!). The scary part is, there is no ‘medicine’ per se. The weakness and joint pains have to be fought with only one weapon – time.
I have three factors going for me - being a member of tax-paying affluent class, I can afford visiting a doctor and getting the medicines. Secondly, I seem to have been hit by a benignly mutated strain. I was told that walking (though incessant cursing accompanied it) within a couple of days is sheer miracle.
And thirdly I have easy access to the necessary time and space for ‘resting’.
People who don't have these factors going in their favor are surely children of the lesser god. If these people are from the economically lower strata of the society (what the great thinker and philosopher Shashi Tharoor would call 'cattle class'), who have neither the medical assistance, nor the financial assistance to get the medicines and a nutritious diet, nor a decent place to rest for a week or two, then the disease is going to cause havoc.