Monday, December 26, 2011

Imperfect Democracies

Vasu Reddy From Chicago
vasureddy@aol.com

Throughout the documented history of mankind democratically governed countries have prospered and found ways to reinvent themselves when in danger of extremist governance.  Communist rulers, dictators and oppressive regimes come to abrupt or violent end when people in these regimes begin to feel the need for freedom of actions and speech.  However difficult it is to endure a democratic government, it is still only as good as the current term and people can vote the elected government out if the governance doesn’t meet the demands of the general public.

History repeatedly points to the success of democracies where people decide on the elected government and its leaders for a definite period of time and when the elected officials don’t deliver to their promises they typically get voted out with a new team of government.  Each government in its term typically sticks to its election promises and with proper planning, support from the economy and industry and good weather and good harvests, typically can deliver to their election agenda and promises.  It is cyclical to have natural and manmade disasters that greatly impact the delivery of election promises by any government.  Great governance comes with proper planning along with cooperation from the general market conditions and also nature’s cooperation, along with stable international markets and conditions.
We know that much of the global indicators point to overall stability with the international communities with trade and governance, both internal to each of the countries, but also to the overall global communities.  Many of the global recessions that we can trace account for rogue regimes inflicting undue burden on the rest of the international communities.  Although individual countries might function with proper planning and governance, the impact they have because of the other countries’ economies and governance is felt irrespective of the individual good governance.

India is going through a phase where it has a fairly uncomplicated prime minister who has the reputation of a clean politician, but his entire stable of functionaries and the major departments continue to foster great scams that are unprecedented.  At the same time we have a gandhian who is pushing for ombudsman to contain and eliminate the graft in the country.  The prime minister has taken steps for deploying the ombudsman which is a first step towards meeting the demands of general public not just Anna Hazare or his team.  The entire Indian population is in support of the ombudsman and wants the politicians to adhere to a non graft system, and will encourage the elected officials and also bureaucrats to agree to conditions that will lead the society away from graft and punish the individuals that ask for favors while delivering to their prescribed jobs.
Anna is not the first person to voice against graft and will not be the last person to do so.  He is instrumental in encouraging the entire country to rally for a graft free society.  There is nothing more commendable than the awareness he has brought to the ombudsman in India, and his proposals are well tabled with the general public and the elected politicians.

Now it is time for the public to first start accepting the various forms of ombudsman so there is a beginning to the end of graft as we now know in India.  The very acceptance by the government and the opposition parties that graft exists and it needs to be dealt with immediately is a great step to begin the process of eliminating the entrenched attitudes of the politicians that they deserve to take money and favors for what they are supposed to be delivering to the people who elected them.
While delivering an all encompassing ombudsman in one session is practically dictatorial in a democracy, it is appropriate to first accept that there is a general issue of graft which is growing larger and larger each day, and the government at all levels is willing to adhere to anti graft regulations is the start of tackling the issues from where it arises.

Be it top down or bottom up, making graft a crime is absolutely necessary for the well being of the country and its meager resources.  Whatever we have left as national resources should be best used for the people of the country and not for the benefit of a select few, and legislation and appropriate regulation against graft is essential for good governance and democracy of India.  To drive the process at a speed with which the elected officials and surrounding bureaucracy is unyielding may not result in cooperation of the system that needs to move away from demanding and accepting graft as a normal conduct.  We must allow for debate and determination among the elected officials and then their support structures for ombudsman to be successfully implemented in a democracy where everyone has their handout for the least amount of work they deliver to the general public.
While we need a comprehensive ombudsman, it needs to be delivered through a democratic process and should involve the people’s opinions at large and make the elected and appointed officials accountable for their actions, while being available for common man to be able to reach out to the law to take its course when there is a handout to do work that is a right of every citizen.  If it takes multiple revisions so be it as long as the process of anti graft movement is in full force.  That is what democracies are supposed to work with, and have been successful in choosing elected leaders those who promise to deliver and the office bearers will only get reelected if they deliver to their promises.  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Where Are The Blockbusters?

Vasu Reddy From Chicago
vasureddy@aol.com

The days when the movies ran for 100 days, 200 days and some as many as 365 days or more in the same theater to packed houses have been long gone. Just about every language films had a long run at the box office and drew crowd’s day in and day out, and people enjoyed the time at the theater despite and glitz or pomp associated with today’s marketing of the movies. There was no television, internet nor aggressive marketing of a movie, except huge cutouts, radio advertisements, wall posters and news paper advertisements.

People flocked to the theaters and had great fun watching the movies four or five shows a day and if the movie was good it continued the house full boards for a long time. Some of the Indian classics ran for a year or more to packed houses, and people saw the same movie again and again and never got tired of the repeat performances. The actors worked on multiple movies at a time, some as many as six or more a year and delivered entertainment movie after movie and year after year to please the senses of the public. When they delivered a dud, people simply avoided the movie, and when the movie was well made it did not need aggressive publicity to keep running to packed houses. The days where people were showering flowers and whistles all through the movie are long gone.

If a movie runs into the second week with same number of theaters or shows it is a definite hit in today’s market. You no longer the see the movie run in a lot of theaters as long as four weeks, let alone 100 days or more. Gone are the days where movies ran 100 days or more in 100 centers. Nothing is generating and keeping the interest of the public at large on any movie as they come and go so quickly, it is difficult to remember what is playing next week.

Given the huge promotional activities actors and movie makers undertake these days, it will be near impossible for them to promote any more than one movie at a time and perhaps a year. They have to plan it, script it, make it promote it and release it and then only work on the next project, unlike the olden days where actors worked on multiple projects at a time, and effortlessly engaged in multiple characters simultaneously, and with great ease and dedication.

These days so much hype and hoopla surround a movie prior to its release and the fate of most of them is disastrous. There is no guarantee that a particular actor in any language is truly capable of delivering a crowd pleasing and money making movie at the same time. Gone are the days where bankable stars had the ability to act in multiple movies at the same time, choose quality scripts, work with hard tasking directors and deliver multiple hits each year. All we have these days is a lot of pomp and circumstance leading to the frosty reception at the theater, and people not responding to any kind of low quality product irrespective of the money invested in the movie.

Granted that we have instant access to critics reviewing and programming our thought process on what to expect from any given movie, it is likely that the general public have been getting smarter and savvier in spending their money on quality of the movie rather than hype. With the influence of the internet and piracy adding to owes of the films, only high quality films will draw continued crowds. People are still looking for entertainment that not only pleases their senses but will draw them repeatedly to the theaters, and when such film arrives it draws the crowds.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Relishing The Diversity

Many diverse people and their tastes, traditions and their way of life make India a great country which embraces just about every aspect of life and its greatness. Every place has a Panjabi dhba, irani chai (although it is not from Iran), Dosa and idli, Biryani and samosa, pav bhaji, vada pav and a million other delicacies we fondly remember and chase down at every opportunity. It is not my intention to forget mentioning any of the delicacies as we have so many of them, which I may not list in my short essay. All of us Indians and non-Indians devour the fantastic delicacies irrespective of their origin or nature, and enjoy them day in and day out. Some of the foodies at midnight as some of the places cater to the taste buds at midnight feasts. Whatever region of the country we come from the food seems to transcend the regional boundaries, and just taste draws full praises while washing the delicacies down with a lassi or goli soda. Never in your mind has it crossed that the origin of the food going down has any bearing on the regional nature of the delicacy, rather the meeting of taste and culinary satisfaction. The Indian Buffet we so much enjoy is a culmination of the entire Indian nation’s delicacies that satisfy the palate of all Indians, but for some reason the regional differences seem to play a big part in creating major political and philosophical differences in policy making. There is one nation for all Indians, which is India and the internal geographical boundaries are no more than our own post independence histrionics that were created for political purposes along the regional language patterns. Granted that India has many different languages and dialects which essentially draw state lines in most instances, but is not necessarily the criteria for separate states. Neither the Indian population is so divided by religion that they form states based on religion. By and large the Indian states are divided on the language and lingo based divisions rather than religion. There might be economic issues that might form time to time become a bone of contention, and sometimes water is also contentious among the states. Indians by and large like each other and live in harmony despite the many language and traditional intricacies. The wonder of the population so diverse and so large living together and in unison is greatness of its democracy and tolerance. No other population as large and as diverse lives together in such harmony and enjoys the brotherhood of each other. Indians love to be together and enjoy the many diverse activities of the great population with so many variations in language, culture, religion and definitely culinary pleasures. We are one nation with a great fabric stitched together with every vibrant ingredient that god has created and man can think of, and nothing can be better together.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Twelve Trillion or Twelve Zeros

The current US debt is at 12 trillion dollars and counting up. Each minute the ticker goes up and continues to climb each day. It is mind boggling to even count 12 zeros after a number, let alone 12. Every year we hear of congress and the president working on debt reduction, and lots of debate on what steps to be taken to reduce the deficit. In years and years of piling up the debt, the money set aside for interest on servicing the debt is larger than the budgets of many a countries in the world. Every couple of years there will be a big debate between congress and the president and talk of government shut down, and they always work out ways to compromise and make the deficit bigger and bigger. Not since the days of President Clinton, annual budgets have been revenue positive. Many years have gone by with the annual deficits getting larger and larger, and debt servicing getting to be a bigger and bigger part of the annual budgeting process. Years of multiple wars, natural and manmade disasters, poor planning, unemployment and other unplanned and unprepared activities have haunted the national budgets with excessive spending beyond what is expected from the economy to generate revenues to sustain the spending process. Individuals have been facing increased unemployment and reemployment has been challenging. High wages, benefits and perks are a thing of the past in the US economy nowadays and just holding on to a job has been more than magical. Daily stories of young people moving back with their families are very common, and putting perspective on the economic system is all but impossible. Thinking of the twelve trillion debt and servicing the debt is humanly incomprehensive, and will require a stomach with iron lining. By simply calculating the individual burden of the enormous debt will make one wonder the possibility of someday making interest on debt the largest item on the US budget process. If really planning to eliminate the debt burden is discussed by the congress, it may never have a beginning or ending to the discussion, as there will never be a real debate on how to solve the debt crisis, as no one has an answer to how to address the debt burden now and its ever increasing number. No one is willing to make concessions on their current benefits and will only use the budget deficit as an election ploy to point out that the president and the party in power has done nothing to cut it down or take long term steps to eliminate it. The biggest congressional battles are to increase the debt limits rather than cut them. There are always plans to cut spending but never get implemented as the individual congressmen and congresswoman will always pitch to preserve their own vested interests. The economy is independent of the congressional decision making in pushing prices higher and individuals working hard to make ends meet. There is crisis in European countries and many of them in need of bailouts from the EU or other major global players. Their situation is as bad if not worse than the US budget deficits. There is an enormous amount of impact on the global trade with countries suffering massive budget deficits, and not doing enough business with each other. To help the US economy the other trading partners should be strong and be able to pay their bills, and at this stage every country seems to be struggling to keep their own economies together. Even the Chinese have slowed down in growth to help with trade with USA, although they also run massive trade surpluses with the USA. There is no quick fix to the massive debt burden, but immediate steps are necessary to stop the increased burden on the US balance sheet. More innovation, cost cutting that may not be appealing to the public, tax structure that may help with increasing revenues and across the board spending decreases will help decrease the debt burden, and will start to help reduce the trillions owed and additional trillions in interest payments. It will be a long road to debt free budgets, which may not be possible if continued congressional dilly dallying on compromises that make no fiscal sense.