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Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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

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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

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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 »

Overhyped #TOIFail

Posted by chakrabarti on November 24, 2009

Another Manmohan Singh meeting with a US President, another in a series of meaningless TOI inferences, having little relation to or bearing on reality.

“..Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday threw down the gauntlet to Washington, Islamabad and perhaps even Beijing and other world capitals that India would not be budged from pursuing its interests in Afghanistan..”

Ah yes, such determination was shown by PM Singh. And what might have prompted such a “throwing of the gauntlet”? These were the words used by Singh: “The road to peace on Afghanistan will be long and hard. But given the high stakes involved, the commitment of the international community must be sustained by firm resolve and unity of purpose.” It’s about the most cliched rhetoric you are ever likely to hear about the Afghan situation, really amounting to nothing. “Firm resolve” and “unity of purpose” are meaningless buzzwords, akin to “freedom” and “democracy” and “ancient civilizations” that are thrown around in boilerplate speeches delivered all the time by politicians on the world stage.

The larger point in all this is, Singh’s cautious statement about a potential withdrawal of American troops from the region, is hardly a “challenge” that has been issued to the US, Pakistan, China or some other country. It’s highly unlikely that Obama and his national security advisers shall be swayed one way or the other by a vague statement from the Indian head of government, and India’s premier newspaper should not be overhyping it’s significance.

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This music is supposed to make me shop?

Posted by chakrabarti on December 24, 2008

It’s some sort of conspiracy, I tell you… Come Thanksgiving week (Thanksgiving! Last Thursday of November!)… and all merchandise stores hit upon a brilliant idea to lure customers in for the shopping season… Let’s play a bunch of Christmas-themed songs on constant loop for the next six weeks! That’ll surely work wonders for our bottom line!

Go into any Men’s Wearhouse, and you’ll hear “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in the background. Ninety seconds in, and it’ll be stuck in your head for the rest of the afternoon! Not to be left behind, Best Buy brings out it’s own collection of “Frosty the Snowman”. There’s the obligatory “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”, and of course, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas”, immortalized, of course, through Tony Curtis’ “Love Actually”.

One wonders how many have been alienated by this constant drumbeat of good feelings propagated through boom boxes over the years. How many have stopped buying at shops, even avoided malls altogether, relying on Amazon and eBay for the season’s needs. Thankfully, those two sites don’t have carols playing when the page loads, or Flash animation of reindeer pulling a sleigh (something I hope their product managers never even think about).

All I want for Christmas… is some peace and quiet, so I can get on with my checklist!

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Great Moments in International Relations

Posted by chakrabarti on August 14, 2008

Earth to McCain: were you listening to yourself when you said this (at 1:12)?

Correct: In the 21st century, nations don’t invade other nations. Some just bomb others into the stone age, let loose hundreds of thousands of troops and generally contribute to civil war, ethnic cleansing and general disorder.

Thank God there are no invasions any more…

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