Cyber Coolie

Insert statement about high-minded discourse

Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Posted by chakrabarti on December 29, 2017

Anonymous Facebook page administrator, your acerbic posts will be missed.

Especially compared to the gutless wonders that comprise a lot of contemporary Indian journalism.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Communalism, India, Journalism, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Dear Emperor Nero

Posted by chakrabarti on February 20, 2016

I understand the purpose of open letters is not to persuade the person to which you are addressing it of the correctness of your arguments. Rather, it is a device used to engage a broader audience under the pretext of a one-on-one communication. Regardless, the tone of such “Dear Mr. Modi” pieces often irritate me. Exactly what are the chances that a dude who built his political career around maintaining a strategic silence on targeted violence is going to perform a “mea culpa” on reading one of these articles? Chances are when even the Supreme Court personally calling you out on being an expert fiddler hasn’t made a difference to your career prospects, op-eds penned in news websites can hardly convince you to restrain the dogs of state institutions that have been unleashed on hapless kids in their 20s.

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Nope ..

Posted by chakrabarti on September 4, 2015

This seems about right. If you are given an opt-out from handing out marriage licenses to them gays ‘coz you find it personally revolting, and the judges try to accommodate your beliefs by asking you to permit your subordinates to perform their public official duties, and you refuse to even let that happen, then you can’t complain about “religious persecution” when thrown into jail. “We are a nation of laws” is a phrase thrown around pretty often, especially when government whistleblowers are thrown into prisons, or destitute migrants with children are deported from the country. Why wouldn’t officials have to carry out their duties that have the Supreme Court stamp of approval?

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Section 377 Repeal (Why It Won’t Happen)

Posted by chakrabarti on June 30, 2015

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Saturday Afternoon Uplifting Thought

Posted by chakrabarti on September 28, 2013

Following politics back home can often get depressing. Luckily, I live and work in a country where the opposition party would rather shut down the government than let a program providing healthcare to the uninsured take effect. Fabulous!

Posted in India, Politics, United States | Leave a Comment »

Mush’s Jon Stewart appearance

Posted by chakrabarti on July 20, 2011

Apart from the inevitable spin on why bin Laden went undetected lo all these all many years, and the attempted obfuscations of trying to distinguish between ISI activities in Afghanistan (the bad kind of terrorism) and against India (presumably the good kind of terrorism) that is expected of any Pakistani establishment persona, the more interesting comments were on the subject of the putative US withdrawal from Afghanistan currently set for 2014, when he claimed that setting an artificial deadline before demonstrated progress would be counterproductive and would simply cause the Taliban and allied parties to wait it out up until that date. It was as if the script had been pre-approved by John McCain, Lindsey Graham or the Weekly Standard editorial desk. Although I can see how a military general would be predisposed to such a worldview, one would think that those in the Pakistani political system would be relieved to be rid of a huge military presence next door, especially since the strategy has stifled grand “strategic depth” ambitions that were curtailed by 9/11 and the ensuing conflict.

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Of Trump and General Elections

Posted by chakrabarti on April 29, 2011

This New Republic editorial is correct that Trump’s recent rise among primary voters is due in large part to “an exaggerated sense of victimhood.” Trump has managed to combine the usual CEO-whining about Obama’s Marxist-Lenninist-Maoist economic policies (which include compromising on public-option health insurance, creating a watered-down, Wall Street-friendly version of financial regulation legislation, abandoning stimulus at the first hint of Congressional resistance and jumping on the deficit-reduction wagon, so on and so forth) and familiar cultural resentments hurled at liberal politicians since time immemorial (reaping benefits of affirmative action, accusations of foreignness embodied in the “Birther” insanity) that are an instant hit among Republican primary voters. Of course, having a popular reality-show on a major TV network also helps with visibility.

But what the editorial skips mentioning is that if economic conditions are bad enough in summer or fall 2012, Trump (or Palin, or Romney, or whoever captures the nomination) will end up in the White House. Never mind the vanishing stimulus, the mood of “austerity” currently sweeping the nation’s political system (curiously reflected in budgets cuts aimed at weaker sections of society and a continuation of low marginal tax rates for investors and the business class) is a disaster for economic recovery and job growth, anemic as it is right now. While Obama might be interested in reaching further agreement with House Republicans on additional budget cuts in order to gain press coverage that appeals to Independents, I hope his advisers realize that a double-dip recession isn’t really the best re-election strategy, especially once the GOP candidate has been selected by next spring and the polls inevitably tighten.

Clearly, the Federal Reserve needs to step up to the plate and continue its “quantitative easing” policies in bigger quantities, especially given current inflation rates of 0.5%. Oh, wait

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Of Weddings and Economic Power

Posted by chakrabarti on March 4, 2011

Some friends of mine are outraged over an astronomical 14 million pound figure that was quoted in a British newspaper as the amount spent by a Congress politician at his son’s wedding. The article cites Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, a renowned socialist, as saying such ostentatious behavior should be avoided by party members. Indeed, notwithstanding the rising inflation in the Indian economy of recent years, the amount allegedly spent by a public figure is quite obscene.

But I think a lot of us are missing the point by simply criticizing the spending behavior, whereas the most pernicious aspect of this whole affair is that a representative of the people [at least an aspiring one] would have accumulated such vast sums of money. Human beings often behave differently depending on their circumstances and consciences, so it is only natural that some wealthy people would like to flaunt their riches at a joyous occasion like their offspring’s wedding. But would the distribution of economic (and implicitly, political) power be much different if the person in question had thrown a more austere party?

To generalize this a bit more, Forbes’ list of India’s filthy-rich contains examples of the most ostentatious  [your Vijay Mallyas], as well as more modest ones [Narayana Murthy comes to mind]. But it is undeniable that their overall net worth provides them with disproportionate influence on corporate and public policies. Our marginal tax rates of 30%, along with major holes in the revenue collection process, do nothing to lessen the political power held by such figures in a society that has an average annual income of US$1,200, and a human development index rank of 119.

So let’s rail against lavish spending by political figures tied to the incumbent governing party by all means, but also let’s recognize the underlying systemic issue, aside from the ostentatious behavior.

Posted in Corruption, Delhi, Politics | 2 Comments »

Thaw, Baby, Thaw..

Posted by chakrabarti on January 14, 2011

Barack Obama takes some more [sensible, may I add] baby steps towards easing the Cuba embargo. Fact is though, the existing policy towards a small island nation off the coast of Florida makes little sense, given that the Cold War ended more than 20 years ago [the dubious proposition of whether the embargo was introduced to overthrow the communist regime is outside the scope of discussion of this particular blog post]. There’s been predictable protests from the usual suspects, such as hawkish Republican congressmen, on how this would perpetuate survival of the Castro regime. That sounds about right, given the incredible success of undermining the Cuban government through economic and travel restrictions put in place for the last 5 decades.

Posted in Foreign Policy | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Revelations Inside “Inside Job”

Posted by chakrabarti on December 13, 2010

Walked into a movie theater after quite some time last night to catch a screening of “Inside Job“, a documentary about the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath. The narration was by Matt Damon, presumably to put more people in seats (also might be a logical move given Damon’s identification with Democrats and liberals in general).

A lot of the stuff in the documentary has been out in the public domain for a long time now: deregulation of financial markets starting with Reagan, the dot-com and housing bubbles, the power exerted by a handful of investment banks on the political scene, securitization of mortgages, derivatives trading, repeal of Glass-Steagall under the Larry Summers-Robert Rubin-Alan Greenspan regime (“The Committee to Save World”, as I recall from a Time Magazine cover of that period), the collapse of Lehmann Brothers that triggered the epic financial crisis of 2008, et cetera, et cetera. Relatively little of this was new information, though presented nicely in a coherent format. The contrast with Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story” was fascinating. Although Moore’s work is a lot more humorous and on a different level in terms of cinematic excellence, “Inside Job” avoids the question of profit-versus-welfare motive altogether, focusing instead on the role of the financial industry, legislators, the Federal Reserve and the role of the Clinton and Bush administrations in bringing about the debacle of September 2008 and the resulting worldwide recession, from which we are recovering painfully to this day.

Something new that I learned from the screening: the role of Economics professors in lending respectability and a certain legitimacy to the financial industry, be it while writing papers about the (in)stability of Iceland’s banking sector in conjunction with Goldman Sachs [Frederic Mishkin], or advocating for deregulatory legislation as Treasury Secretary and subsequently cashing in while giving speeches to Wall Street executives following a stint as President of Harvard [Larry Summer], or advocating supply-side tax policies that increase the personal wealth of the top 0.1% of the population, many of whom happen to be employed in the financial services sector [Glenn Hubbard].

Another take-away was the commentary on the kid-gloves treatment provided to the big banks by the Obama administration, that has been a major sore point for liberals who expected things to change at least slightly in the past couple of years. Notably, the movie points out that many of the players who were central to bringing about the crisis (Bernanke, Geithner, Summers, the list goes on) are still running the show. Of course, those who were paying close attention to the Obama primary campaign would have recognized that economic populism was not one of the strongpoints of the campaign [their differences were mainly in the foreign policy domain].

To sum up, “Inside Job” is a good primer on the events leading up to the financial “Armageddon”, and its lingering aftereffects. However, the documentary does make you leave the theater feeling a little pessimistic..

Posted in Film, Finance, Politics, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »