Monday, December 13, 2010

Tax cuts and such things

Apparantly the President of United States wants to strike a deal with the newly strengthened Republicans on a deal, which essentially kicks the bucket down another two years. No backbone. Just politics. So the assumption is rich people should pay at 2001 levels, thay mindset shift will mysteriously make them create more jobs and trickle it down. Maybe they will, but by providing those tax breaks for the estate tax guys almost to the tune of billions is a bit too much to swallow by any sane standards.

So will my tax go up, maybe not payroll - but we will be paying more out of pocket in every which way. One can easily balance the budget - more taxes, less spending. It is just not going to happen. Eventually that Social Security and Medicare is going away, who will make the call - that remains to be seen.

So in the end...the logic is well, the longer term unemployed got another year. Why? WHy would anyone go look for a job if welfare state is alive and well. It will never solve the unemployment problem. MAybe the Obama Govt does not want them to be in the labor pool at all - one way to reduce the denominator.

It is silliness everywhere. The President may have crossed the point of no return. I hope for his sake, its incorrect because the options, other than Romeny are much much worse.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Politics of Insanity

United States is going into an election November 2, which will sweep in the Republicans in the House and a Democratic Senate with a much stronger Republican control. Nothing will change, but the pace will slow. For US, the divided branches are good in general. The country has progressed well, whereas if one party rules it all, excesses happen, and everyone feels jipped.

Mr. Obama has three things going against him: businesses don't trust him and do not want to invest the vast amounts of cash on the sidelines into jobs, the people think he just is too aloof to care, and then Fox News and Murdoff media skillfully has made people believe the world is going hell in a handbasket.  The economy is recovering for at least 4 quarters, but ask the 10% unemployed who dont feel that way.

In 2 years the economy would still be growing. The unemployment rate would be at 8% levels, and everyone will call that a huge win. The ware will still be on Afghanistan, only because the Right don't want to let the defence contractors down. The budget will be bloated as ever. The Health care money will be throttled but still very much around. Just for BHO to feel good about a rerun paritcularly if the other side puts up Palin, who if she is smart shiuld wait till 2016.

As for the rest of us, we still wont be cared. Life is go on. One  soundbite, one moment, and one breath at a time.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Water anyone!

World is fast running out of water. In 30 years, many portions of the world will be severely overpopulated and severely parched (e.g., India, Middle East, parts of North Africa for starters).  Many people in the US, Europe and parts of Latin America have plentiful supply, but most others do not. Water has always been a public right, like the right to breath air, and freedom and liberty. 

But the villainous and what at that time seemed a far fetched idea of someone taking over the world water resources, as depicted in the latest Bond movie, "Quantum of Solace" is about to play out all over the world. Private parties all over the world are banding to control aquifers and lakes to feed the unquenchable thirst of the world.

We are surrounded by water, nearly 70% of the planet is, and 90% of the human body is...but very little of the water around is potable and drinkable (less than 1%). Ultimately someone is going to figure out a way to cost effectively desalinate the oceans - till then water is going to become the new "clear" gold. There is not way around it. And certain countries will hold other hostage to it, and will to war for it, Pakistan, India, China come to mind.

We cannot live without water, so we do care about it as individuals, already purified water marketed by the like of Coca Cola and others is 5x more expensive than a gallon of gas..but no one pays attention. At least not yet. But as global warming takes grip and our fresh water sources under assault, we will always be fighting a downward battle.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tea Party Anyone!

What started as an innocent protest by a stock trader in February 2009, asking folks to ship a tea bag to Congress for bailing those good-for-nothing-don't care-bonus gauging-electionbuying-loanlending-moneyhoarding financial institutions, is now - a bonafide phenonmenon.  Tea party is here to stay and influence GOP politics for years to come, much like the arrival of Lord Ronald Reagan thirty years ago.

Tea party manifesto relies on constitutionfollowing-healthcarehating-prorich-antienvironmenal-simpletaxation-balancedbudget-controlled spending manifesto. Parts of them noble, parts of them just pot crazy. But as in life, nothing is perfect. But they have struck a nerve, people just have had it from everybidy, nobody seems to listen to them. Congress does what the lobbies who got them there tell them, people seem to not get it. Well, they do, they are just not sending the useless reps back. But would the new breed be truly faithful or power and influence and the soft money that comes with it change them? Initially no, but eventually absolutely yes. Mass Senator Brown is one example, great in the initial days, but he does take much of his directions from whoever care to provide it to him. Fill in your influence blank. That said, he is being a maverick and thats what makes him cool for now.

Eventually a balance budget and reduced deficit would be nice, but then taxes have to go up, they cant both be at logger heads. Right now, people just want to work, and poverty is at a 30 year high, what were we expecting after all that blood bath. Now the really painful news is that $780 Billion of the Govt gave (our money) to Banks is still sitting there. That is a $2300 per person, we could have all used, spent some of it and brought the economy back, single handedly...but that did not happen.

Sarah Palin, on the other hand, has also shown that  resignation from her post, having all the personal issues, and lack of any good grasp of anything, does not have to effect anything-it infact is a plus! Many americans have come to see her as themselves, and thats a sad state of affairs for the country. But Palin is here to stay and nothing really sticks to her. One has to be as whacky as Glenn Beck to get some attention around here. Common sense? What common sense. Patience? What patience? Middle ground? That does not exists. Consensus, compromise, bipartisonship - all new four letter obscenities.

We care about us, we want it now...and we will remove whoever is in our path...we are not watching, and we don't care.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Koran and September 11

A crazy preacher in Florida wants to burn a Koran on Sept 11 on the 9th anniversary of the terrorist strikes in America.  It was when 19 completely deranged people decided to administer a medicine to a superpower, that collateral damage is not just confined to the Middle East. America woke up, and a trillion dollars have been spent in misdirected wars. A lot more than 3000 have been killed since, another 4000 of brave Americans, and tens of thousands of Iraqis, Afghanis have died as part of the collateral damage. Yes, the hard core elements have died too in that process, but innocent lives came with it.

That brings us back to the Koran. It was interesting when the whole world was commenting on an action of a crazy preacher wanting to get his 15 minutes of fame, a disgrace to the cloth he wears. Just two years back hundreds of Bibles were burnt in Jerusalem by Palestinians, where was the American outrage and world outrage then? No one screamed, no one asked for peace.

The reason is simple: the imam has a megaphone 5 times a days, and can stir up emotions as no one else can. Most Christians do not even go to their churches, even if they do its once a week. Therein lies the difference. Emotions can be whipped up easily one way. Hence the fear.

When a bunch of un or under employed people, with no or poor family ties, living in extreme poverty, get together they are look for a goal - any goal, to find purpose (which comes with food and money), you have them to do anything. They know living such a life, unheard, is no life at all. Dying young in glory is another matter. Koran binds them that way...its the way of even one book burned goes a long way.

On the flip side, unless better employment conditions are not created (a la Dubai, Abu Dhabhi), talking to this crowd is pointless, force is everything.  Inspite of all the aid poured in from United States, Pakistanis will always hate Americans...nothing positive we do matters. All they want is their money, and then go away.  In many movies in  Bollywood, the explicit dialogue is to do whatever to "get money from that white man (gora)", then make fun of all their ways behind their back.

In other words, every bird cares about itself first. If burning a Koran endangers our birds, then we should not encourage it. But don't expect the other flock of bird to understand. They only care about themselves.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Chilean tragedy: price of a human life

The grainy images brought a sigh of relief. It showed a bunch of Chilean miners buried nearly two thousand feet below were alive and  in good spirits given this could very well have been their grave, and for some before the ordeal is over, it could still be. Trapped in a small space breathing the stale air, sparse food, little water, and no light showcases to what extent we risk our lives to want for a better life. Most of the world does much care except watch it on TV as it makes good TV.  They will watch Beck rally, even participate in it rather than empathize with their plight. Same is the case of the millions uprooted in Pakistan.

It will take two to three months not weeks or days to get them. The human and psychological tool is incalculable. Even if a few perish, all they will get is a lump sum payment of a few thousand dollars. That's it. There will be no rallies, no taking back the country, no bringing back the honor.

Most nation in US and by default some parts of the industrialized world is now obsessed with an errant hurricane that could dent up the east coast. The damage could be catastrophic, it could be minimal. Impeding doom is much more thrilling than being buried in the earth. With all the technology in man's possession, drilling ocean floors. It will take more time to get to the miners than it did to breach the BP Oil well, there is something wrong with that.

Meanwhile 40 odd people live in dim lighting with a camera, sparse ration, and attitude to see through three long months. There is nothing anyone can and will do about it. There are ways to get to them faster, but why? These are no VIPs, they are just ordinary miners. Their life is worth less, anyone else could have fared better, and there in lies the rub.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pakistan: the next forgotten nation

Africa has long been the lost continent. But the events of the past week, and the generic apathy demonstrates that Pakistan is soon becoming the next lost nation. Almost a fifth of the country is underwater, displaced and in risk of disease, amongst sweltering heat and humidity. Nearly a $1 Billion of aid is needed, but not much has trickled in. In the end, not much will trickle in.

Why is this apathy? Well, the rich particularly in US who are most generous in the world, think Pakistan is a terrorist state, and in general, they are right. It may not be state sponsored, but the mismanagement in general, means anarchy prevails. So the ones who will loosen their purse strings, the ones who will have benefits, the ones who will go door to door to get the aid - pretty much don't care when it comes to Pakistan.

Pakistan - the land of the pure, is filthy, unruly, waterlogged, hungry and disease prone right this second.  Not much of the richer Muslim brothers are doing anything much either. What can do against the wishes of Allah? Why help if that is what God wanted?

Mismanagement here will single handedly change the course of history. Extremist elements are pitching this calamity as a signal from Allah, that he despises people who help the infidels (read: Americans) and more of the ruin is to follow.  So their recruiting tool: join us, we pay, we provide a brotherhood, we provide a focus, and we on the side of Allah. Pretty compelling right? Well, from an unemployed youth's viewpoint, whose home got uprooted, whose family is in tatters, and there is no sustenance - this is the perfect storm.  Many a future extremist will be born in the next few weeks and months, thanks to this crisis in Pakistan.

Even if the liberal rich did show any apathy, it will not be received well or reciprocated, the die has been cast one way or the other. There in lies the conundrum.

Meanwhile, welcome to the next forgotten nation. "Paak" (pure) is soon under the threat and the  risk to become "naa-Paak" (impure). 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

To have a mosque or not have a mosque, thats the ?

So they want to build a mosque at Ground Zero, not near it, pretty much at it. And almost everyone in New York is up over arms about it, at least 5 to 3. Anti-defamation league on one end, Mayor Bloomberg on the other. The Mayor says,"We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands.." if we did not do this. Others argue the World Trade Center Ground Zero cite that it should be left alone as a grand graveyard honoring the dead, but the real estate is too enticing for any such noble gestures. There is money to be made here, a lot of it.

The proponents of the minority argue such an opposition goes against the very nature of our immigrant mentality and tolerance. Really ? Our history suggests as waves of different Europeans, then Asians, then Mexicans came such issues always flared up. Even the Jewish community with all its clout is not integrated into the society. We truly tolerate each other for fulfillment of our capitalistic dream. There is no kumbaayah of any sort. Birds of the same feather flock together, and they hate the other birds unless getting along means overall survival. We only care about us!

Now, the country allows for the freedom of religion and faith. Using those rules nothing should prevent the Mosque from being set up. In defence, they say the emams are moderate: he espouses peace. In the end of the day, the question is not about the emam, but about how the community embraces United States. Speaking from experience, the community broadly does not espouse the kind of values the emam has, or the intellectual integrity of a Fareed  Zakaria.  They are exceptions on one end, there are several moderates who want to keep their head down and try to achieve the dream so that their relatives can too down the road in their home country or here in the middle, and the un or underemployed radicalists on the other end. For this under-employed group with rich relatives, inclusion in this Muslim community is limited to finding an unanchored Causasian women (not African American or Spanish or Asian origin), lure them with stability, money, and marry them (and almost always convert them to Islam) to use that funnel to get blood relatives entry into this country-legally of course. For what: a shot at prosperity. However, the "kaum" (Arabic for the broader society/people for Islam) must go on.  Right or wrong, that does happen, and denying it, intellectuallizing it,  is pretty much letting your heads remain in the sand.  The education levels in the Muslim world, where most of the early influence comes from, will never reach a level where such moderate behavior and enlightenment will be achevied and prevail. It is true, that most of the community if employed are peace-loving more for economic progress, but bear deep resentments to the actions in the Gulf and elsewhere (lets face it: we may not like human rights issues in China, but we can't do much about it; but we can always lord over the Gulf, we need their oil, they need our money, at least for now). It is just how it is. America will never be first, "kaum" (قوم )  will be, when push comes to shove.

Memories in that subcontinent run thousands of years, ask any Afghan or any Arab, or any Pakistani, or any Palestinian - memories run long. A country with a memory of  400 years, with tons of problems of its own, slavery to start with, racism that still lurks with us, tries to take the high road (becasue otherwise it will look bad and somehow "help" terrorist recuirting) and expects everyone will understand - well, not really.  There lies the problem and disconnect. The hue and cry is more xenophobic, but the underlying problem is bigger - it has the same patterns of distrust as the other waves but none had religion mixed in, it was pure ethnicity, this time it has religion in the center of it. There is no denying.

The country is at a 'beggars cannot be choosers' stage, they want any country which has money to  buy our debt. Well, Arabs are one of them, right behind the Chinese. In the end, the prayer room will go up, the big money from outside is on it, there will be incidents around it, but eventually life will go on. This will not stop the extremists to recruit, that is not why they hate America. There are thousand other betrayals in the past, and there is no way to make them forget that, mosque no mosque. But, I do think in the future, it is quite conceivable that the next attack at the country may in fact be have roots at this site.  Particularly if some fool tries to demolish that structrure after its commissioned and built (ask the Hindu nationalists in Ayodhya, that grudge battle is still going on). That brings the most inconvenient question of all, while praying how many people praying at this mosque will be thanking the almighty for amity, peace to the world vs. thanking those "shaheeds" (شَهيد) who brought those towers down for all those atrocities in the name of oil. It hurts even writing this thought.
The best answer is that the Ground Zero be left "as is" as a shrine where people of all faiths come and offer their prayers for the fallen (much like the Wailing Wall in another sub continent) - but that will never happen. So all this posturing will continue.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Right or left, incompetent

Supreme court drama wrapped up today with Kagan getting confirmed largely on party lines. It has become fashionable to be polarized. No one care about the people in the end. There are still over 8 million unemployed.

Issues with the right: They want to be pro-business, anti-deficit, pro-life, anti-gay, anti-tax, environment-neutral and pro-defense. Now, they are same ones who want to continue the tax cuts which added 2.3 Trillion to the long term deficit, more than wars, more than prescription drug benefit. They did it with their eyes open. They hate immigrants of all shades, although they pro-port to like the "legal" ones, but want to repeal the 14th amendment. They like guns rights, and ability to conceal them and use them, yet would not want additional law enforcement. They are pro-life but also want to take life with pro-capital punishment.  Their math and policies conflict each other, but they do not care. They want to be defenders of freedom and democracy but happy to crave to the Chinese, for buying our debt. They are the party of no ideas. One thing they do well: they are disciplined, they make no bones about liking the rich, they can channel focused hate (whether it be nations or particular races).  Silly as it seems there are no moderates here.

Issues with the left:   They want to be pro middle class, and poor, pro-gay, pro-choice, business neutral, pro-environment, pro-tax and spending programs, pro-union and anti-capital punishment. They have been around for 4 years now, and they have nothing to show for. Yes, a depression was prevented, but there are no jobs. Now, they say they like the common man, but in reality they do want to pander to the rich. They fund elections. They want to spend and think structural deficits mean nothing. They are not disciplined and have no guts to make hard choices, irrespective of mega majorities.They still are a party of bad ideas. They want to pander to unions, and immigrants, for purely political reasons. Unions have no utility in the 21st century, and it will kill progress and competitiveness in United States. Immigrants keep up that innovation engine alive, and also keep orange prices low, but in reality they just want that vote block.

Every one knows we just care about us, our constituency, our race, our people and no one else. We do not want to make hard choices. We just want to talk about them.

The truth is: we cannot sustain the deficits, we are not competitive, we are draining away money in wars that can't be won, we cannot have the same social programs in the future, we do not have the best health care for the cost, we cannot ignore the 12 million who are here illegally, we cannot continue to have a society which does not reward meritocracy.  Asia now controls more wealth than Europe and will also have more than US in less than 10 years. So, we are soon to be second rate in every way, and only we have to blame for it. Even England had woken up to that hard fact. We are still asleep on the wheel, does not matter who is driving the car, right, left, or center - we are driving us up a cliff and drive us down a deep abyss from where there is no return - just misery. We all have to take the blame for it.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Disorganized chaos and idiocy called India...

I have travelled back and forth to India for over 15 years. Since 1990, it has made a lot of progress and impressive progress at that. But it strikes me for every two steps forward, the country takes several steps back somewhere else. A few have become very rich, several hundred million have more disposable wealth and hopeful than before, and then there are hundreds of millions whose plight is worse than Africas.

Disorganized chaos, lack of national pride, and just plain idiotic ways to do things is limiting their true potential.  Some of the smartest and well rounded people I have worked with happen to be from that subcontinent or first generation descendents.  Granted many came in the 90s, they tell me that US is the only place where their multitude of talents was valued irrespective of race, color or caste. I am not so certain of the race thing, but I do agree that opportunities for the folks who want to play by the rules do exist here.

Things that strike you when you visit any jor cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, several things strike you. First, no one cares about much anything. Second, the rich and the connected can get anything done. Third, law and rules are a suggestion and not many follow them. Fourth, infrastructure plain stinks - a good rain shower and the whole thing simply grinds to a halt. Fifth, the nation in general has a band-aid "this is good enough" mentalilty to everything. Perfection has no place here. And that shocks me to no extent, when you look at Taj Mahal, or the brilliant works of Ramanujan. Meritocracy is limited to schools and administrative exams, but then caste, creed, religion, last names take over.  Sixth, no one has any national pride. Religious or regional pride, yes, national pride, no. People spit, defecate or throw plastic anywhere they want.  It stems from the generous constitution of the country, where anything goes. You want to shut down the place for protest, you got it. You want to practice you religion, have multiple wives, choose to communicate in anyway, you got it. You want to divide up your state by sub regions, you got it. You want to respect every holiday there is, you got it (India has one of the fewest working days in the developing or developed world, except maybe Europeans where no one works in August). You want to have a multi-party rule, you got that too. Right or wrong, a very expansive democracy.

This is where I truly appreciate karma. If you did not beleive in God you will. More people get back and forth from home to work without getting mentally or physically unscathed, than they should. Driving here or any part of South east Asia for that matter is an experience, not for the faint hearted.  Also this uncertainty of life caused by circumstances, pollution or beliefs have created a deep need for spiritual consultants. Religion, astrologers, numerology, blind faith pervades everywhere.

India is about to host the Commonwealth Games, the published reports suggest nothing is on schedule. But the games will begin well, go one and end - they just hope the band-aid does not fall off, and most of the times it doesnt. Everyone will call it a sucecess, inspite of everything. And there lies the conundrum.

There are reasons why India will lag China forever. But that does not mean it has no hope. In fact, they are the most hopfeul and happy people amongst all polled worldwide. Also, they have the most diverse food pallete there is, no matter what anyone in the West says - they just don't get it. And wonderful traditions to top it, based on over five thousand years of institutional memory. A small amount of structure will go long way. A unifying leader will take them a long way. A proud attitude will climb any obstacles. Or else, it will be more disorganized or idiotic than ever.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Those illegal immigrants...

An Arizona law on prosecuting illegal immigrants (read Mexican nationals for the most part, some freshly smuggled Chinese fresh off the boats too) goes live, everyone is on tender hooks. Most "illegals" have gone underground, most "legals" don't want the risk to wander around and be asked to prove their citizenship.

The way the right sees the free-market, it does not include any minorities in them. It is a place where the descendants of the original gringos from four hundred years ago, and another wave of their brethren in early twentieth century, get all the opportunity. Well, it is not the case today, so we want to wall off against those who are "taking away our jobs". Interestingly these are jobs no one wants to do, as it is menial, does not pay benefits and definitely not unionized. It does reduce the cost of labor and "ruins it for all the rest of us". It does keeps oranges priced reasonably, but then no one really cares about those things. "They don't pay taxes and they tax our health care system, and our education systems, where their US born kids go to school for free". Some of that is a very fair assertion, some simply fiction.  United States is a great melting pot. But we have never really learned to live together, just learned to tolerate each other, as long as it doesn't effect my life or my family.  Here comes the hard part where economy, ideology collide, when time are tough everyone wants to cut corners and reduce their dependence on labor. Our illegal immigrants work hard and are happy to take any job that is our there. And this is a better life than the life they left behind.

Interestingly, the paranoia is going to to ruin the economy of Arizona already reeling with the real estate bubble. Sometime lawmakers just do stupid things, they cut things which would save them more money if they kept the,. For example California cut their tax collectors who pay for themselves in two months.

In the end its a tricky issue, a path to quick naturalization for all illegals will not be fair on the one who stood in line for years to get a legal path. There has to be a middle path and a compassionate path, we as a nation have not figured that out as we are obsessed with our own lives for now. And that's how it will be for a while, even as drug cartels battle across the bottle to get their merchandise.  It does make sense to patrol the border and maintain vigilance, but at the same time not ostracize the people who are already here, yes, illegally. As long as they are productive and contributing to our economy. Yes, they also don't pay much taxes, but do avail of services, so maybe a different of taxer sites in lieu of state income tax maybe an idea.

Meanwhile in Arizona, anyone who looks brown is going to continue to avoid the sun till some of the ground rules are clearer. And that is a shame.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The War Logs

So WikiLeaks along with New York Times release a bunch of military documents, suggesting something the whole world has known for a long time - that the war in Afghanistan is not going well.  Well, history is a great leveler. Russians learned it the hard way two decades ago, but Americans thought they had it all figured out. They did not.

Documents suggest that ISI, Pakistan's agency has been helping the Taliban all along. What a surprise? Ask any Indian intelligence officer, and they would list a litany of things ISI has done in the past three decades, the latest being the Mumbai bombings and killings from a year or so ago.  It is well known that ISI coordinates the Suicide Bomber network. Many recruits are prepared to die not really for the cause, but because their families get the $500 - $1000 equivalent, for their son's "sacrifice".  So the question is this: Should we care about this?  Actually, at least the families of the military should most certainly, and anyone who has any shred of patriotism should too.  Billions have been spent on this God foresaken war, which no one can win. Blame the terrain, blame the tactics, blame the tenacity, or blame the fact that no one wants you there.  This country has no future, no oil, no natural resources, just opium - that can only get you high, not get you fed or get you a job.

The real question is: why was this leaked? Because they wanted to send a message. Military was not focusing on Afghanistan under Bush, because they knew better - but also the whistle blowers thought that the neocons will never shut down the war. Somehow they think that BHO will - I think they are mistaken. These wars will single handedly ruin a great nation and its prosperity, this is what Napoeleon and Hitler both discovered - when the enemy has nothing to lose, and doesn't care about life or liberty - you cannot defeat them, and in the end it will defeat you.

This information will be dissected a million different ways, and they will find the leakers and court martial them, but the war will go on. And we all know, we are not winning it, and never will. But we will not stand up and demand that lets just close shop and come home. Why? First, we just care about us, and our family is not sending a son or daughter to war, only those who do care. Second, it is a misplaced sense of pride that we cannot be defeated.  One word: Vietnam. So that how it goes. or no green

Schools kids all over Europe and United States are drilled in their heads about being a good environmentalist, the merits of recycling, the evils of plastic and the need to protect everything green.  Many nations have stringent laws around this. The debate about how humans have irrevocably shaped the future of the planet rages on. 

One thing is clear: our output has reshaped the fragile climate, and the nature will respond back in its own way, it always comes back a full circle. The temperatures of the planet is going up, whether the bleeded conservatists want to believe it or not. It is causing certain life to end and other to begin. Less than 1% of all water in the planet is usable and billions need it every day, it is only getting sparser. Then why is there such a debate and the resistance to do something about it?

Well, we only care about us.

China argues, inspite of it now being the largest energy consumer, that US "polluted" its way to prosperity and wants everyone else to stop doing so, from a different economic perch. A similar view is shared by all developing nations.  US lawmakers themselves think onerous taxes are only going to make this recovery stunted and so no restrictions should be put of any sort, and would use anything to debunk scientific research to the contrary. We as citizens only want to do the part that is convenient. In other words, we may want to throw a bottle of plastic away, but in a developing world you may not be able to find a trash bin of recyclables, or trash bin, period. So what do we do? We throw it on the wayside just like anybody else. And there in lies the rub. We only do what we can, not what we should. And so do nations, industries and communities.

Take the oil spill from the Gulf.  At one point the economic and ecological devastation will last for decades. But still we want the drilling to continue, inspite of the risks. Hunger trumps environment.

At this stage, all can do is watch events unfold and shake our heads. We hope it doesn't effect us in anyway, our livelihoods and the like. In fifty years, earth would a far more difficult place to live in - there is no debate on that. Technological advances may help, but the golden years of "balance" is just about ending, and period of "excesses" about to begin. Till then, we hope our air conditioning continues to work in the heat, and our refrigerators keep the beverges cold, irrespective of how much freon is bad for the "environment".  After all, we come first.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

China: Ready to Rumble...

China surpassed United States in energy consumption last week. It was half that just 10 years ago. Think about that magnitude. In just 10 years China, which has averaged a long term growth rate of about 8% a year, doubled in energy consumption. Future oil, coal and basic resources will no longer be guided by United States but how China fine tunes its voracious appetite. There has been several trillion dollar transfer of wealth from all nations, primarily United States, to China.

They have kept their currency pegged to the US to fill up their coffers, and then as the consumption internally improve, un-peg the dollar gradually. It can only be done by an intelligent communist one party nation – note, the word ‘intelligent’. For every one of those, you have a North Korea, which is the antithesis of how a dictator can ruin its people. One day, China will simply take that over or be handed over North Korea, as it will simply not be governable anymore. China has proved one thing: that democracy trumps economic growth. China has a neighbor, housing another billion plus people, called India – the world’s largest and functioning democracy. Its constitution is so expansive in its democratic reach that it has made parts of that country ungovernable for all practical reasons. It is growing, it has free press, and it has made strides. But nothing close to what China has done. In many India can never be able to achieve what China has been able to achieve, and its democracy actually detracts it from achieving some of its potential. During the mid-70s when an Emergency was imposed in India, it is argued that it was the best three years of functioning India had ever seen.

So, this brings us back to what should other nations do? Most of them are helpless to sit and watch and go begging for alms to this mighty federation. Developed nations like their socialistic policies and high taxation, most have been driven away from innovation and hard work. The same is fast becoming the case within United States, if present trends continue. For the first time, US lags in innovation as a nation.

But all this does not matter till that trinket we buy from Walmart, for $2.99 remains that way for the foreseeable future, because that is all we care about. As long as my own life in my own little microcosm is not disturbed, anyone can be a world superpower, just leave alone my job, my iPod, my TV, my transportation, my gasoline, my air, my utility bill and my ability to indulge in useless things. Anyone can run the world. All this time, we never noticed someone came from behind, caught up and beating down everyone.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Its the Economy, Stupid...and we are mad

Apparently the economy has been growing for about 4 quarters, but no one seems to have noticed - except maybe Wall Street traders who more than made up for some very steep losses in 2008 and 2009.  We didn't notice because we stopped looking at our 401k (which felt like a 201 k). And because the companies, and those who run them have to make money, and more importantly the chief execs need to justify their bonuses, they have no choice but to keep their job rosters to a minimum - there is very anemic job growth. It is going to remain that way for a while. In fact it will be 2017 before we reach 4.5 % unemployment assuming we grew 300 k jobs a month for the next 7 years (something not seen since Clinton era).  So we feel very uncomfortable with our situations and this goes to most of us. Unless you run something, and something profitable, you are in risk of being replaced.

On top of it, US Govt. wants to tax the wealthy. One argument is they are not taxed enough compared to all other developed nations. Okay, that is true. But they also buy a lot of junk that keeps the economy going, as almost 2/3rds of it depends on consumer spending, a majority of that done by the people making over $500k a year. That is a fact. Now, if at these times you want to tax them - they stop buying the junk they don't need or places they don't need to go. Everyone feels the trickle down effect, and this one is well established and known.  But taxes are coming, in every way possible and shape (even the death tax is back, be prepared to a bunch wanting Dr. Kevorkian to be back in action just till Dec 31, 2010). And it is going to effect overall economic growth - there no two ways about that either. 

Is there a silver lining then? Well, yes and no. Had US not indulged in a poorly decided war in Iraq and avoided the excesses, all this new regulation would not be a bad thing. But right now, it is coming at the worst possible time. The only thing going for the US, is that the developed counterparts are not doing that hot either. So far so good. Misery loves company here. Even England, is now prepared to return the government to the local provinces. Even China is forced to look inwards because the rich people and the Walmart crowd in no longer ready to but all their manufactured junk indiscriminately.

Life will not return to the ga ga 1990s ever, but feel more like 1937.  Only a huge war (that is not of our choice) will get us out of this. Otherwise, the ups and downs will both be muted - no huge disasters, but death by a thousand cuts, while feeding you honey drops.

Since we care only about us, we don't like that uncertain feeling. In the end, it is the Economy, stupid.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Oil Spill

So we had an uncontrolled spill for about 80 days, before BP figured out one way things did work vs. many ways that didn't (including shoving golf balls and asking public to come up with ideas). It was sad to see a company with billions in their disposal to not have the intellectual capital to come up with innovative solutions to plug the leak. But that is the state of all capitalistic endeavors, who really cares about people: they only care about themselves, much like we care about only us. Lets be truthful here. Its me, my family, my community, my ethinicity, my neighborhood and then my country. Its very simple.

We have a Governer (Jindal is thy name), who is smart enough to know whatever he is doing is scientifically useless, but politically priceless. He is doing "something" vs. portraying the government is doing "nothing". He sees this as the golden opportunity to ressurrect himself from the disaster of a speech from a few years ago. He simply cares about himself.

We have a Government, which at one point got concessions from BP, but only the other hand did not show any visible committment to solving the problem, even as the oil gushed out of control. It was they did not have ideas either. We have a president (BHO) who thinks he can talk his way out of a problem, unfortunately wrong. Governance is not speech making. That is why governers make good Presidents and senators do not. It is just a fact. In this case, as much as Government wants this problem to go away in a critical election year, where they want to focus on other legislative priorities and show that they are fighting for the common man - the common man is feeling the contrary. The mood is sour and getting worse, no one wants to invest in anything, and wants someone else to do that first - whether it be lending, small business hiring, purchasing a house, purchasing a car, as the definition of discretionary spending has expanded and no one wants to do anything that falls into that category. So, in the end the Govt. does care about its seats and preserving it, but is having a tough time doing it.

This brings me to the final point: the nation has an abundance of natural gas (and yes, its own excavation has risks, as detailed in a funny movie, Gasland) that can last for centuries, and the vehicles that run on them are cleaner and quieter than current gasoline driven cars, but the lobbies just wont allow it. They care about themselves, and they have something most don't - a lot of money. And so it goes. The spill may be over, the true work begins, and its longer term impact will last for decades. The marine and other acquatic life never could form a union, and we don't really care about them, unless of course it poisons our own food.

In the end, we only care about us.