Monday, December 26, 2016

We Believe In Fables

Vasu Reddy from Chicago

It is perhaps sub-conscious, but all human beings have heard, read, dreamt and thought of Arabian Nights, mythology and Disney Land.  From early childhood we are trained to believe in a land that is far away, full of fulfilled aspirations and desires.  Our religion, our literature, our societies, our families, our friends, our teachers, our surroundings, and in general everything around us allow us to look at things (both material and spiritual) that are at some point of time in the past described as what we should aspire for. It is with time and opportunity the individual aspirational attitude is driven.  Gone are the days when people aspired to join the independence movement and becoming a public servant. Now becoming a doctor or engineer (still in some communities), or a software engineer is probably in thoughts of most young ones, and also perhaps the last days of aspiring to travel or move to the USA for work.

There is no doubt that every generation will aspire to become more financially independent than the past generation.  Being financially independent and taking care of the family is the paramount aspiration for every one, and finding a place where that is afforded is the preferred destination.  Perhaps the definition of what is right/wrong might not differ with generations, but certainly our aspirations will be driven by what the rest of the world is doing and what opportunities exist for financial security at any given time.

After the World War II, and the Indian independence, pretty much wiped out the British, Spanish and Portuguese dominance with colonization of vast territories.  The initial days of the world exploiting the internal combustible engine fostering easy travel, societies and people have become mobile and willing to move from place to place seeking work and freedom.  The advances in telecommunications, internet and mobile communications have certainly created a new environment to work from where ever you are, while automation and internet have been combining to create a new work place.  As the old saying goes, expect change, it is constant.

For over a hundred years of internal combustible engine, the world (especially the western countries) have gotten used to high rates of employment, high wages along with great mobility.  As all good things begin and end, the manufacturing, farming and heavy industry have seen the transformation to more automation and information technology jobs, along with globalization and cost effective business management.  The large public enterprises continue to look for efficiencies and profitable balance sheet, and the work force changes are as drastic as the technology changes.

The last 30 years of television, telecommunications and Internet have heavily influenced the new age employment.  The global population explosion constantly puts pressure on employment and opportunities, while the transformation of work force is not in parallel.  There is pressure on job and wage growth from exponential population growth.

The comfort factor that had set in with the jet age, all of a sudden is faced with wage stagnation and employment displacement for the developed societies, while the poor nations look for opportunities to jump on the employment band wagon offering cheap labor.  Although the Chinese flourished for a generation of cheap labor, they have come under increasing pressure on economic tactics and exploited opportunity.  The western societies have seen heavy industry disappear, and wages stagnant while facing increasing global competition to their production plants.

The fable of perfect societies is really that.  Things constantly change with life and industry and economies.  The mindset of the western/developed societies has suddenly been put to danger with cost/opportunity for business and employment. A combination of globalization, cost and benefit to the industry, the shift to a technology industry from heavy manufacturing, automation and available work force; all factors make industry reposition and reshape.

While the developing nations vie for more opportunities to participate, the developed nations struggle to find the opportunity for their heavy industry and high wages.  The struggle for opportunity and cost management is more than ever as there are internal pressures within the nations to protect and preserve the economies of the last generation, while the opportunities are in a very different landscape.
The fables will remain the same and opportunities ever changing.  For a way to better and more comfortable place/s the changes and adoption to the changes is the only way to participate.  If we don’t choose learn the new world dynamics and to participate in the rapid advancements, we will still speak of the fables but will not participate in their outcome.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Up Side Down

Vasu Reddy from Chicago

2016 holiday season is here.  Christmas is coming this weekend, and Santa for sure is coming.  Chicago is once again under polar vortex, really freezing and lots of snow on the ground.  Chicago Bears Keep loosing every week, and all Bears gear already in storage for this year, and Cutler is still with the bears, but injured and on the sidelines The Chicago cubs in 2016 won a World Series championship after 108 years and probably the right spot for the year for Chicagoans, and die-hard fans world over  Illinois has been going into the second year without a budget and no one seems to care (for those of you who care Illinois is our state), and actually people don’t see any reason to worry about the state budget, local services and whatever the government was supposed to be doing.

The country has a new president elect in Trump, president Obama is just about packing his bags and moving out of the white house, Hillary is enjoying her nationhood and her couch.  The Obama presidency if nothing else has been a good one for families with children, and full of personal and social meaning, along with being hassle and corruption free.  We Chicagoans are proud that the Obama’s are one of our won.

Trump and his supporters (even after the election, and winning the presidency) continue to tweet and air fascinating theories.  Trump’s selection of his support staff at the white house, really supports his election and thereafter tweets.  He really tweets.  Trump is a master of throwing things to the wall and let someone agree with him or something stick.  What facts and who needs them?  He has an abundance of material that no one else can think of tweeting, so the daily (nightly) soap opera continues, and for another four years it is certain we will either be entertained with conspiracy theories or can watch reruns on the television, and stop using twitter, may be the internet itself.  But as it has been for more than a year and half, the television has been one place to keep the remote handy, to keep flipping channels to escape the barrage of conspiracy theories.

Putin and Russia have all of a sudden become Trump’s favorite pals.  As the world watches in amazement, and while Russia continues to support the carnage in Syria, and has annexed Crimea and just about everywhere Russia fingers in dismantling democracies, Trump and his actions think otherwise.  His latest appointment of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, clearly points to his reaching out to Putin.  He is a very accomplished CEO of Exxon Mobil now leaving the job to become secretary of state.  While an extremely successful oil executive, he is closely tied to Putin, perhaps can be viewed as his biggest asset according to Trump.

Despite the cyber attacks on the USA and its election process, specially targeting Democratic Party, Trump doesn’t publicly accept Russian actions against the USA, and keeps pushing his Russian agenda with every action that he has taken, fully contradicting global posturing towards Russian atrocities internationally.  The atrocities in Syria, Crimea, cyber attacks on the USA, and whatever else that have attracted global sanctions against Russia seem to be same as any other global reality for Trump.  There is nothing here to figure out as Russians wanted Trump to be in the white house, and he is now getting ready to move in.  Neither Russia nor the USA can spin their politics by 100 degrees without causing massive global disruption, but Trump is capable of doing what he feels (tweet) at any given time of the day, and it will not be anything close to conventional for at least next four years.

The largest trading partner of the USA, China is at odds with Trump, and this is a twist that probably unplanned for anyone in the political or diplomatic circles. New game show as Trump embracing Russia, and constantly tweeting (tweaking) against China, as China is the largest trading partner with USA.  Since President Nixon started diplomatic channels with China, each USA administration has threaded very carefully with China, both politically and diplomatically, but Trump tweets otherwise.  China is a powerhouse by itself, and doesn’t follow anyone else’s rules but it’s won, and even before Trump gets into the White House, he has been tweeting perhaps about revisiting pre-Nixon times.  But, there is nothing to figure out as China remains what it is and USA has come to the time of Trump.

We have yet to see the real political, diplomatic, economic, international and domestic turbulence.  The USA can certainly become isolationist and redraw its priorities as simply USA.  There is nothing wrong with domestic policy making to simply be a stand alone nation.  The funny part of Trump’s domestic agenda will force him to shut down all his dealings out side of the USA, and it is a good bet to make that he will never put anything first, but his own name.  When Trump says America first, we have to believe him as he is right, all his assets are American.  Unless he will standup and show us his taxes, and then whatever his interests are will certainly tie with his national interests.

There is some sensibility in his choice of support staff.  Christie, Gingrich and Giuliani are no longer going to be in his cabinet, and new players have come in their place, but conspiracy theories are still abundant and will be huge material for writers and commentators and story tellers for years to come.

God Bless the USA.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Wasting Time

Vasu Reddy from Chicago

The Indian movie makers have run out of ideas for quite a while.  They willfully ignore (all most all the time as they have not made a movie that is worth watching in many years) the audience and ticket purchasing innocents, and keep throwing the same stuff (being very kind with my words) at the audience each week.  Granted that some movies are minor exceptions which deviate from the glory of a few men on screen, but even the exceptions really don’t stop from the clich├ęs of the age old story line.

Barring a few exceptions, most movies fall into two categories; dishoom and dishoom, and the new trend of showing western style relationships in an Indianised context.  There is really no nativity to displaying what happens in New York or London or cities outside of India, and people fake speaking in funny accents and show casing life that is not a normal to the Indian way of life.  Granted that many Indians ape on western societies, but life of a movie going Indian really has not changed in generations, irrespective of where they live.

The regional movies have continued to glorify the really short guys, with heavy make-up as super humans, and super smart guys who in every movie do the unthinkable, unimaginable and unbelievable stuff in just about every movie.  Common man watches the movie of uncommon gory and glory.  With each passing movie the production costs and payments to heroes has continued to shoot-up, irrespective of their box-office outcome.  The vast majority of the Indian movies end-up being a flop or disaster, but we keep churning out boat loads of movies every week.

We can perhaps ignore the wafer think storyline, which continues to become thinner with each week.  The heroes and generational attitudes have continued to bank of the same logic, fight, beauty, locations and illogical two and half hours.  Lucky for the audience the so called big heroes in all languages don’t make many movies these days, and the moviegoers are spared the experience mostly to one or twice a year.  If the today's stars release movies as did the the yesteryears heroes, we might have simply stopped going to the theater.  By limiting the number of releases the big stars are really sparing the audience and also the producers the distress of lost money and aspirin.

The love for movies is really escapism.  Fortunately the fantasy, action, thematic, potter, Disney, Star Wars, and many variations of English and foreign language movie take the viewing space (now a days in many of regional languages), and you can just throw in a local language movie in the middle.  But what is still missing is the fell good movies that probably were the staple of life a generation ago.  The experience of watching a movie with 500 or more people in a theater, and enjoying the simple melodrama for almost 3 hours has become a difficult commodity.

But the logic of a moviegoer has never been too good.  We still want to see the movies, and we still want to see the song and dance, and action with a few tears thrown in.

The old saying goes “Time is Money”.  I did not want to emphasize that I was wasting money, just whiling my time away watching movies.  Enjoy the show and for a few months really cold weather in Chicago.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Right to Steal

Vasu Reddy from Chicago

The process of demonetization by Modi government in India is first commendable.  Trying to bring the society to be honest (at least try to be civil to each other and to the country) is a promise that Modi spoke of while canvassing to become the PM of the largest democracy in the world.  To force the cheater’s to stop hoarding ill gotten wealth, and also stop the terror and antinational activities from faking the currency and funding atrocities on Indians on Indian soil, all of this is effort that should have been national priority from 1947, but now it is becoming a reality.  Just demonetizing currency might not be the only way to stop tax cheaters and anti-nationals, but it certainly is one of the effective ways to curb the actions that hurt the country.

The effects of demonetization are immediate in brining all the 500 and 1000 notes back into the accounting, and weather the money is white or black, the Indian banking system can now account for how much of the money legally in circulation is exchanged, and also identifying and destroying fake currency that essentially funds terror in the country.  Both accounting all the legally issued notes and eliminating the fake notes, in one go is necessary for the national security.

If even a small portion of the existing currency is not returned into the banking system (which is being destroyed in many ways) the country benefits from the liability.  The country essentially eliminates the terror funding by demonitizing the fake currency.  Both add to the positive balance sheet of the nation.  At the time of writing this column, the terror funding has completely stopped, and at least a 10% to 30% of all 500 and 1000 notes might never be back into the system from the cheaters and hoarders, adding a big positive to the national treasury.  Also, all the declared currency, and the income tax and penalties that are derived, definitely adds to the positive national balance sheet, and also millions of accounts all of a sudden have money in them instead of zero balances.  However you look at it the demonetizing flushes out a lot of back money, completely eradicates fake currency and wind fall for income tax authorities, and new money in the banking system.  Irrespective of the political hoopla by the opposition parties, this is an economic maneuver that was long overdue by India.

The long lines in front of the banks to exchange and the difficulties faced by common man in doing daily chores are real.  The government did not plan well to tackle the demonetization and exchange of notes.  But announcing the demonetization ahead of time would have simply defeated the very purpose of eliminating black money and fake money from the economic cycle.  For politicians in opposition this is a short term political opportunity, but for general public it’s a nuisance that is temporary, and for people who don’t use banking it is of non consequence.  For middle income families the demonetization has become a daily soap opera, watching and wondering about why India is still with poor people ad shanty towns, and without toilets.  The ill gotten wealth is thrown into rivers, burnt, dumped in garbage or on roads, flush down the toilets, and every which way it can be thrown away, but not given to some cause that really needs help.  While the public watches the destruction of money with irony, the attitude towards the ill-gotten wealth.  The money could be declared with a fine, given to charity, given to armed forces, given to places of worship, and many a worthy causes, but the persons/s who obtain wealth illegally seldom think of society and others around them.  The money was and is still being destroyed, the very fabric of the people who accumulate massive and ill gotten wealth.

India for several centuries has seen looted and the looting is engrained into the fabric of life of both people in power and the common man.  No matter at what level of life, society just steal is the motto, and corruption is a way of life.  India is a country with millions of places of worship, holy men and women in every corner and religion as a way of life, but stealing without abandon is a part of routine; such irony.

Even with a few weeks into demonetization, the intelligence bureaus are still unearthing vast amounts of old notes, and also freshly minted notes.  How is it possible to already stash new notes in such short order, with restrictions imposed on individuals?  Is the banking system itself engaged in corruption, how is Modi going to watch the keeper’s who are supposed to stop the corruption?  Modi certainly needs the next level of controls to stop the banker’s from engaging in the continued looting.

While the country goes thru the drama of demonetization, the NRI folks were offered clear directions on how to exchange their INR.  First and foremost the US Banks and currency exchanges were less than welcoming to take the INR.  There are very few Indian bank locations in the USA for most Indians to drive and exchange their INR.  The idea to send the INR to India with proof of residency, and authorization letter to someone who can deposit of exchange money in India was also a good proposal, considering most NRI will have some money in INR with them.  Sending money to India with authorization for a local person to transact them was a affording the folks to not to throw their money away, rather get it back into the banking system.

A personal story here; I did follow the instructions on sending money to India.  I prepared an affidavit to the bank, attached a copy of passport and drivers license, provided the Indian bank details and also included in my communications the local persons contact details and included the INR by airmail, and sent it to India.  I double checked the process with my contact in India, and sent it off.  Did not think of the mail and money for about four weeks, and I got a message from India.  Everything I sent to India was received but the currency was missing.  I was shocked, and now have no way of tracking the money lost in sending it to India.  Here I am, followed every instructions given by Indian authorities to account for my money to India, but someone simply decided to take my money, and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.  I just wasted a lot of time, effort and my money in the process.  I wanted to do the right thing, but with India nothing right is really the right thing.

Indian systems are built to steal.  I simply can’t imagine how many people went thru the same process as I did, and wanted to follow the guidelines but got their money stolen.  With India and Indian systems, you really can’t win by following the rules.  Modi is no messiah to make people respect other people’s space and resources.  The country is so used to stealing at every stage and every place, and no amount of government regulations will take the cheating out of their system.  I am not venting here, but in every instance in dealing with India, this experience of people stealing is a norm.  It’s sad, but it is very real.

While I wholeheartedly support the demonetization which has eliminated the fake notes, and support to terrorism, and to a good degree brought a majority of money back into circulation, Modi can’t affect the mentality of India from stealing.  Indian’s believe that it is their right to steal, and at every chance they get.

Pulse of the People Vasu Reddy From Chicago In the last couple of weeks I did predict that Modi will come back to be the prime ministe...