Sunday, May 21, 2017

Book Review - The Dirty Parts Of The Bible, a very good read

- Uday Oak

An Amusing, Enchanting, Involving, Outstanding and Ultimate experience!
Ever since I acquired a Kindle, collecting books became a virtual experience. Certain websites would push 'deals of the day' through email, and I would lustily download, especially if the books were free for that day.
Most of the 'deals of the day' are in 'thriller' category. And after reading quite a few, I developed an uncanny knack of spotting the dud ones in the first few paragraphs, if not in sentences. Unfortunately, then onward, reading kinda lost the old golden-platinum halo, acquiring a more functional stainless steel one.
This book (rather, e-book), suddenly brought the old thrill back, and some! Including the melancholy feeling one starts developing towards the end, simply because the book is going to end.....
I had experienced this feeling a few times earlier, but the total count in my life has never gone beyond a score. Tortilla Flat and A Confederacy Of Dunces are two names that spring up.
And now to the book.

At times, the language is rather 'direct' (to put it euphemistically). But only at times. And the author is not using it as a trick or a show-off or a USP. Otherwise the overall flow is very easy, very comforting, very natural.
Set in 1936, it starts in Michigan. And moves on to Texas through Illinois. A baptist preacher's virgin son, obsessed with two things - god and girls (not necessarily in that order). Hard cider, bird droppings and a weird blindness push the story forward.
A hobo, who spouts philosophy without appearing contrived is a fabulous character. If ever a movie is made on this, there would be no other person than Morgan Freeman to play this role.
Well, writing anything more would be taking the fun away....
On the whole, a must read, if you like Sue Townsend's Adrian Mole kind of humor.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Trump in Trouble

"I hope you can let this go,” 

Can American Public say so to President Trump?

At this point, we are looking at the first serious challenge to Trump Presidency. It all boils down to few specific things:

- Saying "I hope you can let this go," [1] was it just the manner of speaking or a command or an implicit threat?

- Knowing Trump, the chances are that he would have asked Comey and others many times on this matter. If it turns out to be a threat - entirely possible with Trump - then 'obstruction of justice' charge sticks to President Trump, which is enough to get impeached.

The problem for Donald Trump is, how do you discredit James Comey by providing any other alternative explanation? Trump believes in his reckless aggression so much that probably he never bothered to think through how Comey can boomerang on him.

The 'tapes' with which Trump threatened Comey may, on the contrary, contain accounts to bolster Comey's case than Trump's. Sure, one can imagine 'foolishness of Trump' where he is trying to threaten someone which actually undermines himself. Chances are that, if those tapes exist and I think so, those tapes would rather undercut President Trump.

There are still too many unknowns, and the case for  Donald Trump Impeachment has not cooked yet. But what we do see is a possibility of such "baking" to start for sure. If it develops along those lines, there will be a point when GOP House Representatives and Senators would find it politically indefensible - for their own political future - to stand by Donald Trump. When Nixon realized that Republican House Members would not stand for him, he resigned. That is the dynamics here.[2]

As James Comey's public testimony in Congress develops as well as his memos make roads through Congress; we are bound to learn more. Yes, there can be a possibility that Trump is exonerated as more information comes; but knowing how unprepared Donald Trump is to the presidency, knowing that Trump himself is famous 'political destructor' of himself; odds are we are looking at a perilous presidency here.

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[1] New York Times reports that is what then FBI director James Comey wrote in his memos after meeting President Donald Trump. Other Media outlets are confirming it independently.

[2] After all the staunch Conservative like Mike Pence as the President, after Trump is impeached, is a very much 'viable vessel' for Ryan's of the world for their agenda.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Emmanuel Macron

Source - Wikipedia
By securing an emphatic victoryunlike Donald Trump, Macron has indeed contributed to stalling the bad politics of Donald Trump and Brexit. Both Trump and Brexit want to simply 'rip out' the existing global trade, finance, and security systems under the banner of ultra-nationalism without much thought for substitute solutions. Marien Le Pen may not have been as shallow as like Donald Trump, or Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson when it comes to policy matters. She has chops. But that may be just how French Politics and French Society works - there is a less tolerance to the lying and stupidity of Trump scale. And yet, Marien Le Pen's policy implementation would have imploded Europe, would have created more 'entropy' in world institutions. Her willingness to go in cahoots with Putin is completely deplorable. So it is great that majority of French voters saved the world from the spectacle of more instability. Macron has done the job number one well - to remove the archaic ways of established traditional French political parties and then to defeat Marien Le Pen soundly. Around two-thirds of French voters rallying behind this young President is a solid victory.[1]

Apart from stopping the spread of anti-globalization, populist, ethno-nationalistic political choices; Macron win will boost Europe and make EU stronger in dealing with the recalcitrant UK. German Chancellor Merkle should benefit politically as more and more people are seeing through the politics of 'blow everything rhetoric' and realizing the value of established political players and institutions. As Chancellor Merkel makes rounds around the globe to expand German / EU trade; along with China, the world will have two established players - EU & China - rooting for the continued growth of global trade and capitalism. It is entirely possible that History will count Trump era as the period when America actively hurt herself by withdrawing from world affairs and trade without Trump bringing any meaningful jobs to the Rust Belt. Consequently, Trump's America is conceding a lot of 'global political space' to China. What Macron win means is at least a firmer EU will be there[2] to guard interests of Western Liberal Democracies when Trump has trivialized affairs of global order, and British folks are engaged in a race to the bottom in pursuit of naked White Nationalism[3].

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[2] Germany needs to be accommodative of Macron policies to entrench European Integration further. 

[3] Theresa May is going to get the coveted political victory in coming UK elections, given the ineptitude and dogmatism of UK opposition Labor Party under the disastrous leadership of one Jerome Corbayan. But none of that is going to help May in stopping the fissures which are opening with Scotland and Northern Ireland as she prepares for her 'high act of Brexit negotiations' with Europe. For all we know, by the time she reaches the finish line of those negotiations; there may not be the UK as we know since possibly Scotland and Northern Ireland would have started the divorce from Westminister by then.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

AAP in a state of befuddlement



Ratnakar Tripathy

We are going through times when politics has become highly volatile and unpredictable. It has become genuinely difficult or even impossible to make forecasts. And yet I am time and again amazed by the pretense of clarity shown by experts after the event, as if they knew beforehand what’s up and for some reason decided not to share their deep insights. Fear of proving wrong can be quite paralyzing of course and any analysis of events must face the risk of being proven wrong. It was thus amusing to read comments and analysis of the recent turmoil in the Aam Admi Party [AAP] which does seem to be in a state of a daze after its defeat in the Delhi municipal elections.  Sanjay Kumar, political analyst and professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies claims that “The results have come exactly how it was predicted and even if the exit polls was not conducted, if you just walk the streets and talk to people you would have been able to guess these results.” But he does not explain why a party known for delivering more than any other should lose to a party that did not even allow any of its formerly incumbent councilors to contest the municipal election of last month. In brief, what does the voter want and what does the sweeping verdict reflect? Whatever the reasons, it is apparent that the AAP is under a severe strain simply to make sense of the results. Several news reports after the elections did indicate that the common voter cast his vote not so much for the BJP but the PM Narendra Modi, believing him to be capable of strong executive action. This piece of information carries within it the beginnings of an explanation.

I feel that AAP’s recent turmoil and the move against Kumar Vishwas is an indication of the bewilderment among the AAP leaders and the volunteers. AAP among all the parties believes in a rational democratic principle, namely, your voter necessarily chooses you for all the good work done and promised for the future. This belief has now come under serious questioning since by not allowing a single incumbent to fight the elections, the BJP in effect admitted that its councilors were non-performers, even if corruption may not be an issue. Despite the implicit admission, the BJP, of course, swept the elections and came back to power in all the municipalities of Delhi leaving AAP completely aghast at the verdict. I do not think AAP leaders have managed to find a satisfactory explanation for the rout even after several weeks and the reason for this may be the extraordinary climate of the day when the voters are swayed by a single personality and his promises, rather than a party as such.

Thus when the now expelled AAP leader Amanullah Khan alleged that Kumar is a BJP-RSS agent and Mr Vishwas hinted that Amanutullah Khan is a proxy for Sanjay Singh, Ashutosh and other top leaders, I would read it as a sign of overall daze caused by the common failure of AAP leaders to comprehend the election verdict of last month. Even I have the same problem although I am willing to question the rational principle implicit in AAP’s sense of wonder. I do feel that at least for the interim this principle is in a state of suspension and we do not know how long such an irrational political environment persists. When a political party is unable to see its plight with any clarity, factional fights are bound to grow and here again, I see mental befuddlement as the reason behind panicked accusations of a sort that does not seem sober at all.  This showed when Mr Vishwas told NDTV at the weekend that Mr Kejriwal is surrounded by "yes men" who are misguiding him. Mr Khan on his part had alleged that Kumar was plotting to overthrow Mr Kejriwal and if he failed would join the BJP, taking with him several AAP legislators. Clearly, AAP has to decide if following the rationality principle, AAP must introspect and find faults in its delivery system, or simply accept the verdict as a sign of bad times that will pass.

The trouble with the politics of exuberance is that despite all the opposition, the popularity of Modi is not waning steadily or fast enough. This by itself is frustrating and the AAP leaders still have to learn that the voter will not easily lend it the mantle of a stable political entity and the factional quarrels will just make this public hesitation worse.


Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Commentary - Polemical Review of Trumpian White Nationalism

I doubt Trump ever thought of White Nationalism in an as serious manner as what Andrew Sullivan is analyzing in this long post. This is a polemical work - we got to face any pretense of intellectual foundations on which Donald Trump and Theresa May stand. Andrew Sullivan does a great job of breaking the damn and opening an intelligent dialogue with scholars who support Donald Trump.

This long article by Andrew Sullivan reminds his similar mold-breaking case for Obama in The Atlantic.

The 'die is cast'. Democrats are not going to clinch the power just on anti-Trump rage. No wonder more Americans think Democrats are more or less equally sold out to interests of Corporations. [1] Unless and until Democrats 'understand what is at stake' and devise politics which goes beyond Clintonism; Americans are not going to accept that party as a solution.

Any subsequent political force in America must face head on what Andrew is articulating in his post. 

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron is one such concrete exemplification of what that 'beyond Clintonism' politics looks like.

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[1] To overcome the perception of 'beholden to corporations'; to start with Democrats need to ban the entire PAC funding and like Bernie Sanders just depend on individual contributions. Hillary raised more money that Trump; but we all know the result. So then why compromise in the way campaign finance gets done?