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.