Monday, February 29, 2016

Madame President?

Vasu Reddy from Chicago
vasureddy@aol.com

It is the end of February 2016, and the USA presidential elections are in full swing.  Unless something extraordinary happens Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic Party nominee and Donald Trump representative of the Republican Party.  Although the presidential elections are not until the end of 2016, the candidates from both parties (those who still remain in the race) have been hard at insulting each other.  The democrats in the race, Clinton and Sanders, although mostly civil so far, are beginning to get animated in their positioning in the Democratic Party, while the republicans are not addressing the issues but simply insulting and bashing each other.

Although the initial directives of each party were directed at one another’s party, now the insults are only at each other in their respective parties, this has been mainly in the Republican Party.  We no longer hear policies and progress, its insults and personal attacks.  One has to wonder how one of these men who aspire to represent the United States will become the statesman that will lead the world’s most powerful country.  The republican debates have become WWF contests with guys in dark suits.  Instead of fist cuffs the republicans trade choice words against each other, and they are no longer civil to one another.

At the end of the election cycle these men belong to the same political party (their politics are very different in the Republican Party).  Although Trump is new to politics his current platform is the Republican Party, and one has to see what happens in both scenarios; if he is the Republican Party’s nominee or he is not.  The Republicans have a huge political climb with or without Trump in the mix, as their message to the public is not being heard in the saber rattling between the current candidates.

While Hillary Clinton’s electoral performance to date has been as expected with its own challenges, she does look like the presumptive Democratic Party’s nominee, while Donald Trump’s political ascent has really become an anomaly that the political pundits have yet to understand and untwine.  Trump’s political ascent with such rapid trajectory is a phenomenon that the USA has yet to see in its political universe.  Trump wants to build a great USA-Mexico border wall, he wants to deport 12 million (a number that’s thrown around) undocumented and illegal aliens, he did not spare pope Francis, he says he wants to bomb the hell out of ISIS (this might be one issue where his support is exponential to anything else), stop Muslims from entering the USA, has issues with the Chinese, Japanese, Indians and anyone else who has a trade surplus with the USA, and the Europeans for various reasons, and just about every community that he can arbitrarily speak of, and every time he adds to his list of people he will go after, his support within the republican party seem to only go up.  Nothing seems to impact his politics and his supporters.  He sounds quite cavalier (almost from the old Westerns) and makes loud and brash statements about anything that comes to his mind.  The slogan make American great again, is distressing as the USA is the number one nation on earth in every which way, while it has many issues or economics, race, income and life inequality, trade deficits and certainly deficit spending.  It is unlikely anyone outside of the USA will pay for anything or will return any favors that are not in their own interest.  But when Trump says words, they seem to attract at least a section of Americans that like to listen to him.  The first thing that his audience forgets is that no one nation can dictate terms of engagement with any other, and today’s polices are a practice that is put in place with successive governments and initiatives, and to make changes to them nations will go thru economic, cultural and traditional changes, not just one nation deciding it’s going to let everyone else pay.  Trump to a degree is correct in the position that other nations are abusing the USA in many instances and USA has nothing to show for its commitments.  Yes, the country can take a better look at its military, economic and human resource planning and development with the rest of the world, and yes USA should focus on nation first and its security first.  Yes, that the rhetoric sounds good with sound bites on we are going to kick the shit out of some one, but do we really believe that the current government and the past governments are not engaged in steps to protect the county from terror and trade?

Everyone likes the idea of protection and safety.  Yes, building a barrier to protect against illegal immigration is a good idea, as USA has a great immigration policy that legally allows citizens from any country to migrate legally.  While Trump and just about all the candidates want to control illegal immigration and also protect against terrorists from infiltrating into the country, no other country really cares about how USA does it, nor will anyone pay for it.

One thing that Trump is right is how he can build something quick and cheap.  USA just like every other democracy has an enormous delay in any policy implementation, and huge budgets that balloon into gigantic budgets for any work to be done.  We probably need someone who has the political acumen and also the business savvy to do things quickly and cost effectively, and still maintain the positive diplomatic relationships with other nations.   One of the major issues for a leader is what punitive actions other nations will take if a country acts without consideration for others?  It is possible that they will also act with equal vigor.  The UN, WB, OPEC, G8, or any other organization that represent nations and trade practices, are all the work of nations looking for common ground.  If a country, however powerful it is starts to make decisions to impose its own will on others, then the world will go back to the days prior to the WW, and become more destructive.  This doesn’t preclude each nation from acting in its own self-interest.  So, building a wall to curb illegal immigration, checking the people entering into the nation to weed out terror, and economic cooperation that are mutual is all wonderful text book ideas, and if affordable to any nation should be implemented.

Let us suppose that Clinton and Trump go head to head in elections in November 2016 representing their parties, and one of them will occupy the white house in January 2017.  Today it certainly looks like they will be fighting each other for the job, unless something out of the ordinary happens.  This election season has been out of the ordinary just looking at Rump as a leader of the Republican bunch.

The electorate is divided as in every prior election; democrats and republicans with their party affiliation, and the independents as swing voters who will probably sway the elections.  As with successive elections, this election is also more polarized than the previous one, and party affiliation is undeniable.  As amazing as Trump’s early primary performance, the general elections will present a divided electorate that doesn’t sway from party affiliation, and only the independents matter, and more over who will get the voters out to the polling booth to cast their ballot?

If we look at President Obama and his reelection, the country’s working class and minorities had no issues with him.  He was reelected.  While Trump has his rhetoric and certainly his lifelong business back ground, the conventional wisdom of the voter’s needs prevails in democracies.  The USA is a reflection of a huge minority population and a large immigrant population.

If all the black, Hispanic, Chinese, European, Asian, ME and Muslim, and all other minority communities that are a part of the US fabric vote with democratic candidate, then it is a difficult election for anyone to go against these vote banks.  Minorities also care about their issues and their voting rights, and certainly will be more energized to get out and cast their vote.  If the entire community gets offended, especially by opposing party in a general election, the voters will be more motivated to get out and cast their vote.  That is all that is needed by Hillary Clinton is to get the democratic base out to vote.  People will always put their families, friends and communities first, and it takes a lot of effort to make them forget anything that is voiced against them as a community.  People always will put their family and friends first, and not confrontation and conflict.

Trump’s rhetoric sounds great on television, and to the listening audience, even to the listening minorities.  The reality is that even if he gets elected as the next president, his advisors will be doing the country’s work to align with the Republican Party’s agenda.  His electioneering will disappear as quickly as he gets elected.  The President has the executive powers to act on a slew of issues but when it comes to money and budgets, he certainly needs the congress to back him, and the congress seldom does anything that is not to its party’s advantage.  The president might be new to his job, but the congress is entrenched and housed to listen to the needs of anyone.  Even if Trump gets elected as president, he will not be able to execute to half the promises he is making, as the congress has set priorities that it will act on, and combine this with a party’s agenda and overall national and global agenda.  The age old practice of deliberation and debate will take precedent over rhetoric.

The world doesn’t work in isolation or in a vacuum, rather as a big enterprise constantly making adjustments and corrections.  It does take time to govern, communicate and adjust to the overall needs of the environment, but takes time due to the ever changing priorities and the vast differences, but it does act in time towards one common good.  The world depends on nations to work together, sharing brotherhood and common purpose, and opportunity for all.  However powerful, no single country can work and be in isolation and even if it wanted to it doesn’t succeed.

This entire election process has defied conventional and political wisdom.  The wisdom of the collective population has not been put to test yet, which is always focused on the society and its needs.  The United States has always been a great democracy and a great enterprise, and always had its share of hiccups that are integral to principals of a democracy.  The nation is also the most diverse in its representative population, which continues to become more and more diverse.

There is no doubt that the country will choose its next president who will represent its best interests for the next 4 years, probably for next 8 years.  This election although higher in rhetoric, is no different than any other, and also in keeping with the times.   The voices of concern should also entice people to get out and exercise their right to vote, and if the democratic party with its larger profile with minorities, immigrants, workers and unions, and people who look for the government to be proactive in managing the country, and the generations that have already paid their dues, young and old all of them together can influence the selection of the next president.  All of them care about their own future, but also have the respect for their fellow citizens and the global brotherhood.  The beauty of the election is that it is definitive and is in line with the people’s choice.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Voter Empathy

Vasu Reddy from Chicago
vasureddy@aol.com

The 2016 presidential elections in the USA are in full swing.  It is a long process that takes more than a year (every four years) to pick the candidates representing the two major parties and then finally a general election to pick the next president.  The beneficiaries of the protracted and prolonged election process are not the politicians who are aspiring to become the president nor the public who are subjected to the election process who really get carpet bombed 24/7 by the wannabe presidential candidates, but the media outlets, advertising agencies, staffers and memorabilia makers.  The candidates spend hundreds of millions bashing each other (everything but fist fights) and spending money that is unimaginable in promoting what great low life everyone who is competing against them.  Hundreds of millions go into the election simply to tell people that everyone competing is such a worthless and indecent human being who is not capable of a normal life let alone governing the USA.

No matter what is said and done, the long election season only two candidates gets picked by their parties with the right to compete with each other and spend millions more in the general elections and only one will eventually get to be the president for the next 4 years.  The record of late demonstrates that the incumbent president gets reelected for the second term, but the election process is still equally expensive and protracted.  Even the sitting president is not spared in the election sloganeering on competence and character.

If one has to wonder if the expensive and energetic political process can be diverted to public works or other process that can benefit the public at large. If a billion or two is spent on each presidential cycle by the candidates, that amount of money can do a lot of good for the public good in any year.  Although it is wonderful to think of money going to good causes rather than personal bashing, it is not going to happen in the near future.  Neither the candidates nor the donors are that much interested in resolving real people issues.

Imagine that a presidential candidate can raise a billion dollars to campaign and run for the presidential office.  What If that money is spent on improvements in public works in the city/town of domicile?  100% of the money goes into doing good works for the benefit of the people.   The media will cover such good deeds as they do other nastiness anywhere in the world.  Yes, no spending money on anything but public works and projects of public interest, and simply use the media to project the plans and activities if elected president.  At least one candidate should try this, and even if not elected as president the work will remain forever with people, and perhaps will even fuel future elections to do the same.  It would be wonderful to see money spent on people issues.

The president’s job is only available every four years, and definitely the most powerful job that pays a salary and comes with unimaginable perks.  So, anyone who is qualified and aspires to become the president, and have the ability to compete for it will certainly invest the time and money (other people’s money) and most certainly will make every effort to win the job.  The method to presidency is no longer written or even in any mode of comprehension; just do whatever it takes.

When the president was asked last week about the current election cycle, his response was classic.  He said that the American people were smart enough to elect their leader who will best represent their interests.

People are aligned with the politics of their representative parties, be it democratic or republican, each party with its own set of issues, solutions, policies and above all beliefs.  When in power they push their party’s agenda and certainly feel they are in the right, and the opposing party is wrong.  The president while in office drives the political agenda that brings the presidency.  Each president certainly drives the party’s manifesto and election promises that align with the political preferences.  When the president and the congress belong to the same party it makes it easier to drive the initiatives, and if the president and the congress belong to different parties the administration gets paralyzed, as none of the parties yield to other’s initiatives.  The only thing that people are being left with is ever widening budget deficits and crumbling infrastructure.

Why can’t the wealthiest nation on earth and most innovative people on earth solve the budget deficit once for all and resolve the political bickering into public benefit.  If the issues that confront the nation and its people become the agenda of politicians then congress and the president can definitely work on issues that are important can be dealt with.  Here is where the public’s empathy comes in place.  The day to day issues are much more close to the people than the elected politicians.  The citizens understand the issues and also how to deal with them.  People certainly try to push for a balanced power in politics.  People look forward to vote for progress and every four years and exercise their right to forecast and look forward to a better future.  They always do.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Social Media and Public Pronouncements

Vasu Reddy from Chicago
vasureddy@aol.com

The ability to communicate, document, share and express; all democratic tendencies that all people like to embrace, appreciate and more over participate and utilize are now a part of the global life cycle.

There are billions of mobile devices that help us with not just call each other, but also have become vehicles for documentation of every nuance.  It won’t matter if we like it or not we are under constant vigil, with someone or something is always watching us.  Be it by our actions voluntarily or involuntarily we are under surveillance.  Anything we write, email, text, browse or any mode of communication leaves a digital foot print that will be forever documented.  If we speak to a gathering, work with a group, express an opinion, just about anything done with one more person is probably being filmed (more than just documenting).  It is not simply a picture of a few words, but what we say, how we are saying and in what context.  We are no longer innocent of anything we do or anything we say.

It doesn’t really help that the politicians make it a habit of abusing every opportunity they get in doing and saying absurdities as a habit and to attract attention.

Certainly there is interpretation of the words and context.  But spiteful and/or specific words and provocative language that leads to sedition cannot be retracted.  What sometimes was said in private no longer private, everything gets captured, documented, shared and somehow or somewhere in stored.

It is somehow the norm these days for politicians to constantly blabber nonsense and often at the opponents (perhaps gets worse by the day) and also with the continued advancements in communications and their reach to the general public.   It is really hard to imagine that any of these folks are aware of what sedition means.  With anyone with access to a simple mobile to blast out opinions, is all that is needed to blurt out opinions.  Personal attacks, wild allegations, accusations, stories and concocted details are really become a practice to get attention albeit for a short duration.  Whatever the opposition does is simply blasted as anti-democratic and anti-something.  Ignoring the national interests and democratic principles people simply latch onto every idiotic issue and make a huge public spectacle about supporting anything that will gain them a couple of minutes of screen time.  We really have forgotten that country comes first and national interest is paramount, not sedition and personal agenda.

Every time a nation gets put down the democracy gets trampled.  Guys who have a mike or a mobile phone start making statements that are of absolute inconsequence to the reality, rather they constantly attack someone else.  There is no need for probes or investigation or SIT or whatever terms that cost time and money to public and yield more animosity.

When someone says something in public it is on tape recorded and easily available.  Why not just put it out in public to listen to what was said?  Is it that difficult to face the truth?  Why anyone has to make comments on things that don’t need any context.  Just get the tape out in public, and if there is sedition that let the courts and police act on it.  There is no reason for anyone to target their opposition for the sake of making some comment that really disparages the availability of a mouth piece.

Monday, February 08, 2016

What Have We Learned?

Vasu Reddy from Chicago
vasureddy@aol.com

Democracy is precious for people to live, express and prosper in life, along with the freedom to learn and choose.  Looking at a very small sampling of time of human life on earth and its experience with democracies, since the American independence in 1776 thru India’s independence in 1947, and years since than the dynamics of democracies can be best described as politics allowing people not only have the respect to self-governance and self-determination, but also what people make from the freedom that comes with the democratic societies.  In the last 100 years the world has a vast reservoir of experience with democracies and politics of nations otherwise.

Although India was a bit behind to achieve its independence from the British, the time after being the largest democracy (and somehow continues to survive as a democracy), the country really has not been able to learn the value of being a democratic society.  It is however a five year term that keeps people waiting for the next savior, and so far everyone who was given the mantle to lead India has disappointed in actions to lead the country into prosperity.  Seldom had we had a leader in India who put country first and its people first. Barring Lal Bahadur Shastri, who did not survive in the office very long, everyone we have had as independent India’s leader has failed to lead the nation in a completely progressive and forward looking manner.  If we take the lessons of democracy from the USA, both India and USA are not only far from each other in distance, but the practices of democracy and handling of its citizens and their needs is really quite a distance from each other.  India has not learned to use its freedom and expression without fear of oppression.  Granted that the first few years of planning the national development right after 1947, the country has never really caught on to making use of its people, history, resources or anything else to the betterment of the nation.  It has been caught in a time warp of politics of destruction, classism, bigotry, and every human behavior which we really don’t personally want to engage in, but allow the Indian politicians to foster the same.

India has the people (population) and the intelligence, and by and large the desire to do well.  The country still has the family as a nucleus and age old traditions still drive the society, and every family wishing and doing the best for its children to do better than the current generation.  Indians certainly wish for better future in every stage and work to foster their young ones to look forward to a better tomorrow.

India keeps expanding both demographically and economically.  At the same time it continues to breed politicians that don’t seem to be learning from the most precious status of life; democracy, along with the ability to be free.

With each passing year and each passing election, both at the national and state level the focus of the elected and want to be elected continue to (each time get worse) focus on politics of division and polarization, most definitely based on personal benefit.  Politics in India and family hierarchies have become synonymous.  From family to caste is also constantly played up to vote banks.  USA has its own politics of polarization, but India is 100% based on polarization of people based on who they are.  It is so crazy that 100% of the country can be called backward class so no one is complaining daily to be categorized as back ward class of people.

The public also gets burdened with massive scams with each successive government, adding to the continued fanning of the caste system, and sectarian hatred keep people polarized no matter how much the country can plan for development and future.  Politicians will keep fanning the hatred rather than forward looking plans for peace and prosperity.  Politicians simply want people to worry about the most absurd thing in a democracy, fear of success, and keep them in a time warp of hatred toward their fellow beings.

The country has never learned from centuries of occupation by invaders, who divided the population based on the same issues as current set of politicians.  The great Indian nation suffered for centuries and was exploited where its own people acted as armies that killed and fought its own people, while the invaders enjoyed the national wealth.  Despite being independent and democratic nation since 1947, the country has yet to learn the value of making a choice.  A very few individuals and families across the country hold the country down and make it lag behind in both development and excellence.  Indians are to blame for the failure of the political system, as it does hold free elections every five years, but democracy stops right there as the next set of elected politicians simply follow their predecessors.  We have learnt nothing from being free; simply call our self a democracy.

Jai Hind.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Thali

Vasu Reddy from Chicago
vasureddy@aol.com

There is no mistaking that there is a thali for every type of cuisine.  Non-vegetarian thali is equally popular and is famous.  Before we delve into my favorite food thali (unlimited variety or the great American Buffet) first we acknowledge that just about every country has a variation of the south Indian vegetarian thali.  To start with vegetarian and non-vegetarian thali (one of the best in the world outside of the five states of south India) is in Singapore, which is famously based on the old Tamil Nadu migrants serving food in lungis and with huge serving of rice and variety of dishes, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian.

There is a little bit of a mix in referring to Thali (can be a limited one serving of assortment of dishes served with rice and chapatti or puri, or unlimited servings of food which keeps coming until one is fully satisfies and can’t eat anymore).

The meals are served in different settings depending on where you are or live or visit the restaurant.  Typically a thali is a round plate, with an assortment of small dishes accompanying with the thali with different varieties of food items served in the middle with chapatti or puri followed by rice.

The dishes served vary from region to region, most times even district to district in every state.  Much of the catering is to the local customers, and trying to keep with local nuances and tastes.  A typical Indian thali includes rice, dal, roti, papad, curd/yogurt, seasonal vegetables, rasam, sambar and small amounts of chutney and powders along with ghee, and the daily sweet dish.

Much of the Indian customers are creatures of habit.  Their preferences in food habits are typical to their native place, although they love food much of the Indian population prefers to eat their local cuisine with local flavors.  With the modernization of the country and people moving from place to place due to work and business, the food is also becoming mobile.  All major cities and towns now have assortment of restaurants that cater to just about all regional tastes, thus giving the touch of local tastes to folks who have to relocate, and also provide a taste of different parts of India to the locals.

The wonderful concept of unlimited serving of food (full meals as I know from South India) is a concept that is world over.  The great American Buffet (can be from any nation in the world) is a popular concept and a popular destination for the ever hungry Americans.  Hundreds of dishes (our local Chinese buffet even has Pizza and fries and fried chicken) are laid out and absolutely no restrictions on what you can eat and how much you can eat all for a few bucks.  The South Indian full meal sort of translates into the western buffet.  Many of the cities in USA have Indian restaurants with Buffet that claims Indian, Pakistani and Bangladesh all in one buffet.  One can’t really tell which is which, but the choice of food is enormous so you can simply pick and choose what you like and still amounts to a great value for the money, and you can eat all you want.

Indian itself has been evolving with its restaurants and tastes.  Every major population center has restaurants that cater to all regional tastes of India.  In fact just about every nation with sizeable Indian populations has Indian restaurants that have buffet, which covers most of the regional Indian cuisine.  Although home and local restaurants are far away, there is no time to miss the food from home.  While the touch of nativity is missing, the taste and sound of food from home is delivered just about wherever we are.

Any kind of thali, South Indian, North Indian (any state of India), Nepalese, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and every national and regional buffet is ready to help us sit down and chow down, all for a small price, and nowadays available in just about every place on earth.  Go out and enjoy the Thali (buffet) all for a small price and bringing the taste of home away from home.