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Obama In India. A Little More Finesse Please.

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Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the move of the century to ditch our wounded republic for a far flung developing nation that’s trying to put us away. And maybe the idea of going to India to jinny up jobs for America seems a bit of an “uhh?” to use a technical term, considering they’re outsource central, but this apparently dry-as-a-bone trade visit could have been made just a little more exciting with just a tad more thought.

India has long regarded the US as it’s natural trading (and not just outsourcing ally). After all, we speak the same language, well most of the people who we’d want to do business with anyway, and we’re both democracies, even if India has a far larger ‘demos’ to deal with.

Now of course, India would say all that wouldn’t they.  They want our business and they really hate the Chinese our go-to cheap labor source, with whom there’s been a simmering cold war for a very long time.

But even with their self-serving instincts aside, India maybe they have a point. Because China really is a pure economic adversary, and an increased trading alliance with India would definitely help to push that point home. In short, if we want to show China who’s boss, and we really should, cuddling up with New Delhi wouldn’t be a bad way to go. It might make the Chinese just a little more honest when it comes to their currency manipulation, and their foot-dragging on doing the dirty work of building a consumer economy to rebalance world trade. Perhaps they’d even stop choking the plane with their one-a-week diet of new coal fired power plants. At the same time, they could hardly accuse us of attacking ‘them’ directly, and instead would be forced to respond to our overtures for a stronger trading partnership with India, by making things easier for US companies in China. Of course, we could start to leverage that triangulation by demanding better working practices from the Indians and Chinese as well as a better deal for US goods in both countries, and other diplomatic goodies too. We are still a superpower, you know.

One of the reasons we’re skittish about building up India is because of its neighbor Pakistan. We’re worried that Pakistan might be less forthright about battling the local Taliban. But we needn’t worry. Their attempts to put the kibosh on militants have not been stellar and they need money. Who trades with Pakistan?  For Washington, better trading relations between Islamabad and New Delhi should of course be part of the deal. After all, there’s nothing like a healthily profitable partnership to soothe a nuclear standoff. And more bilateral trade between the two sub-continental rivals could also boost Pakistan’s economy too, with the possible pleasing side-effects of making people a little richer, a little happier, and perhaps a little less likely to support the militants.

Perhaps all this is going on in the background during the President’s trip to India.

But I sincerely doubt it.

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Written by coolrebel

November 7, 2010 at 1:56 pm

The Truth About The Boston Tea Party

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Cheaper Tea! How Dare You!!

Americans are “mythmakers”. There’s nothing they love better than discarding the inconvenient bits of a story to fit their purpose, whether that purpose is to sell mattresses or glorify the nation’s founding.

A classic example of this is The Boston Tea Party of 1773. Indeed, so central a story is it in American Folklore that it’s the inspiration for the ‘party’ of the same name, currently running amok in American political life. The Tea Party believes in lower taxes, and cutting the deficit (go figure), and one of its favorite banner quotations is “No Taxation Without Representation”, which just happened to be a big favorite around the time of the orginal Boston Tea Party.

What today’s three-cornered hat wearing nutters don’t realize is that the use of the term “No Taxation Without Representation” was a rather convenient cover for what the Boston Tea Party of 1773 was really about.  To explain why requires a brief overview of something which people pay little attention to these days. History.

It kind of goes like this. The British government in the early 1770s were more than a little upset about the parlous state of the East India Company which was losing market share worldwide. So it came up with an ingenious idea. It would dump EIC tea on its colonies, the richest of which were the American Colonies. The way it would do this was via the Tea Act, which lowered the tea duties colonies would have to pay on EIC tea. Yes, that’s right, lowered.

Needless to say, American Tea Smugglers were not at all happy having the price of their smuggled Dutch tea undercut by the nasty old English tea, so they raised a rumpus about it when the Tea ships arrived in various American harbors along the Eastern Seaboard. The Massachusetts governor was the most intransigent on the subject, so the smugglers took it upon themselves to right the ship, so to speak, and dumped the EIC tea in Boston harbor, thereby insuring that the average American consumer would continue to pay more for their tea.

To cover for this blatant act of price fixing, the smugglers wrapped themselves in the “No taxation without representation” moniker, conveniently noting that the phrase made no reference to raising or lowering taxes, just the right to raise them at all. But not all the Founding Fathers were quite so delirious about this brainstorm. Among them, Ben Franklin, offered to have the colonies repay the British for the lost tea (a considerable sum). He was turned down, and the dispute continued to fester.

So next time, you hear a Tea Party supporter complaining that his taxes are way too high, remember that his brave namesakes back in 1773, were actually complaining that the taxes were too, ahem, low.

Ah, those “mythmakers”. You gotta love ’em.

Written by coolrebel

November 4, 2010 at 4:15 am

The Tea Party is a Time Bomb That Will Destroy the GOP.

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The fuse was lit on Tuesday night, when the Tea Party prevented the GOP from taking the Senate even though Rubio, Paul, and Johnson are now in one way or another Tea Party Senators who trashed some pretty stiff Democratic (or in the case of Florida, Independent, opposition).  Regardless of that. the Republican Senate leadership was more than a little unhappy about not getting all those juicy chairmanships, and they began to grumble. It’s small comfort to them that the co-opting of Tea Party energy by GOP leaders was a critical part of the independent switch from Democrat to Republican that led to the hurt on Obama on November 2.

Sure, their House counterparts can claim what looks like a pretty profound short-term victory out of it,  But the writing is on the wall.  Underpinning this ‘success’ is a sacrifice that will ultimately doom the GOP. I predict that by 2016, the Tea Party will begin to field its own candidates fighting Republicans and Democrats, splitting the right wing vote and consigning the GOP to the dustbin of history.

What makes me so confident? Here are a few reasons.

1. The Tea Party is a movement built on rage. It’s not logical, it’s not reasonable, and it harbors expectations which are utterly unrealistic. Replacing social security, rationalizing medicare, repealing “Obamacare” abandoning the minimum wage, and most importantly wiping out our trillion dollar debts in a year or a few at the most, are all pipedreams that are together a tailor-made recipe for frustration. The Tea Party will blame the ‘system’ and its lack of constitutional purity for the failure to achieve those expectations, and the GOP is part of that system.

2. The rise of the “Conservative” movement as distinct from the GOP (a movement driven, ironically, by the GOP itself from Reagan onwards) means that decoupling ‘Conservatism’ from party affiliation has become that much easier. The Tea Party can without too much trouble assume the mantle of ‘true conservatism’ from the corrupt estbalishment GOP, that will be seen by the base as part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.

3. The Tea Party is not a social movement, it’s a proletarian response to economic powerlessness. Deep down, what Tea Partiers hate most is Wall Street and outsourcing of US jobs to China, both of which are part of the fabric of the pro-business GOP.  The old Rove trick of using social conservatism as the come-on to the white working class will no longer work, and because the GOP will never be able to deliver on overreaching economic promises that absorbed the unreality of Tea Party demands, the fissure will break into open warfare very soon.  The Tea Party will have no problem at all turning its ire on the GOP to whom it has no loyalty whatsoever, especially as it regards the GOP as manipulators who used Tea Party energy to drive its gains in the recent mid-terms.

4. The Tea Party is demographically doomed (by the rise of minority voting power, a long-term leftward swing in under thirty voting patterns), but will always see its failure as a conspiracy rather than a numbers game. As the white middle and working classes have been squeezed economically and demographically, they’ve lashed out, but their profoundly conservative approach will soon be a tough sell to independents.  Even though Tea Party rage rippled out to the Independents in these mid-terms, even in the first flush of the Tea Party’s forays into politics its weaknesses were on clear display in Delaware, Nevada, Colorado, and indirectly California. It won’t take long for Independents to get the message that the Tea Party is beyond the pale politically. That will have two clear effects. It will further build the siege mentality of the Tea Party, and push Independents back to the reasonable Democrats, because the GOP will have no choice but to pay homage to the beast that they created.

5. The role of primaries in choosing candidates puts the GOP is in a terrible position. The Republican Base has essentially been hijacked by the Tea Party, and without co-opting it the GOP is now powerless to control candidates in key races. In short, they’re damned if they work with the Tea Party and damned if they don’t. Even in the run-up to this election, establishment GOP candidates were steam-rollered by the Tea Party, and in three critical cases the Tea Party cost the GOP power in the Senate. That lack of leverage is only going to become more evident, as gridlock sets in and the GOP is blamed for not getting the Tea Party agenda even remotely addressed. After two to three cycles, the Tea Party will have had enough. In its rage and frustration it will begin to seriously field its own candidates in key Midwestern and Southern Congressional primaries and the GOP will be doomed.

6. The Tea Party is proud of being a grass-roots movement, but lacks organization and coherent message. That’s why it’s ready for the plucking by a powerful and charismatic leader.  Palin, Rubio, and DeMint come to mind as candidates who can provide the top-down structure that could turn the movement into a party. Palin is hedging her bets. She hasn’t ditched the GOP yet, but she’s sending out feelers to see if Tea Party leadership would be a viable gateway to power that would otherwise be blocked by a GOP establishment that loathes her.  Rubio is the last hope for the GOP to hold off the Tea Party threat, but his positions are so far to the right that Independents would be hard pressed to take them on in a national contest. If he softened his positions he’d anger the easily enraged Tea Party base, and if he didn’t, he could easily lose the general election. But if he’s rejected by the GOP during the primary run for whatever reason, he could easily ditch them to lead the Tea Party as a very powerful third-party candidate. Next up, and if he’s not presidential material, is Jim DeMint, who clearly sees himself as the Tea Party’s George Wallace. If he senses the Tea Party has had enough of GOP failures, he clearly has the organizational chops and could easily jump ship and take the reins of the Tea Party into a general election. And finally, there may be others we don’t even know about yet.

7. The good news for the Tea Party is that there isn’t going to be an economic recovery of any note. The Tea Party is a recessionary phenomenon, like many other far-right parties before it. If the economy improves it’s going to lose traction fast. But between the utter devastation of the housing markets and the foreclosure crisis, persistently high and endemic unemployment, the continued pillage of our financially overloaded economic system by untrammelled banks,  the endless drive to outsource US jobs to Asia, and the spiralling national debt, it’s hard to see how the US economy could be on a steady footing any time soon. That is also bad news for the GOP. The last time they oversaw a boom, under Bush, it was based on unrepeatable phenomena, like rampant and irresponsible lending, and a debt-driven consumer binge. But you can bet the Tea Party want another one of those booms all the same. And when they don’t get it, they’ll dump the GOP real fast.

8. Finally, the Tea Party is reckless. It’s a party of zealots, and zealots are very often self-destructive. If the Tea Party did threaten to leave the GOP fold, the Republican’s would make any promise they’d have to do to stay, but the Tea Party would simply say, you lied to us before, you’ll lie to us again. We don’t want to be used anymore. The GOP would tell them they’re committing political suicide, and dooming the nation to decades of “socialism”, but the Tea Party are true believers andsimply wouldn’t believe that their brand of politics could possibly fail.

Even though Obama’s profound leadership failures may have led us to impending gridlock at the worst possible time for the country, the 2010 midterms are the harbingers of doom for the enemies of the left.

So cheer up, grab a beer, sit back on the sofa and watch the soap opera unfold.

If the nation can survive another ten years, there’s hope for it yet.

Written by coolrebel

November 4, 2010 at 3:38 am

Mid-Term Disaster. Obama Fails The Leadership Test.

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President Obama is a really smart guy, so he probably hasn’t failed many tests. But when it comes to understanding the American People, he flunked big time, precisely because he’s such a pointy head.

America is a nation in the midst of a historical watershed. For the first time since its rise as a world power just under a century ago, it’s beginning to doubt its manifest destiny. So it’s not surprising that the quiet hand-holding the studious Obama was offering the angst-ridden patient wasn’t quite enough. America desperately needed leadership from its Commander-in-Chief, but instead got studied neutrality, and appeals for calm from its policy wonk-in-chief.

Take the “Tea Party”, for example. It’s an inchoate movement coalesced from the inchoate anger of a big swathe of an inchoate electorate. In exit polls in the mid-terms, 4 of ten voters expressed an affinity for this fuzzy, angry movement. But if it isn’t a classic cry for help I don’t know what is, a lurching, restive filling of the void left by a lack of Presidential leadership. Of course, 90% of Tea Party supporters hate Obama for a whole litany of bizarre reasons, but it did its work, exporting ripples of that anger to a receptive and unsettled center that didn’t have a President to look up to and say. No, these Tea Party guys are crazy, The President’s got us covered.

President Obama tried to appease the right, with his feeble talk of bi-partisanship, and in the process built himself a nice lose-lose-lose situation. The right were never going to embrace him, so he looked spurned and weak. The Center didn’t want weakness, they wanted leadership, and the left were disappointed by his constant attempts to appeal to the reason of the right, when all along it was patently obvious they were utterly reptilian in their motivations.

To make matters worse, by rising above the partisan “fray” (whatever that is), Obama decoupled himself from the Democratic Party in Congress and on the streets. He seemed distant from the base, and lost his cache. When he finally began to stump for some candidates a few weeks ago, he was already damaged goods, rather than being the campaigning powerhouse that won a historic victory in ’08. Bad leadership. Bad politics.

As for the signature reforms that Obama points to, all three bore the hallmarks of spinelessness. A kid trading Pokemon cards is a better negotiator than the President. He rightly knew full well that he only had a small window to get stuff done, but instead of committing his huge political capital from the get go, he dealt it away in small bids, and watched it evaporate.

Political capital has a sell-by date. If you don’t use it, you lose it.

Obama let the deficit hawks define our stimulus needs and came in with a low-ball figure rather than forcing the last Republican Moderates to negotiate him down from a higher position. On health care, he made a deal with the insurers BEFORE making his initial position clear only, and only doing that after the meltdown in Massachusetts, and once Baucus and the mini-state Blue Dogs had ground the core thrust of the reform into dust. It always smelled like a deal. And in the case of Wall Street reform, he was deeply influenced by an economic team in thrall to Wall Street. Instead of declaring open warfare on the Street and publicly ditching the Wall Street Cash in his campaign coffers, he said that Lloyd Blankfein was a ‘good businessman’. The people felt cheated and got angry. The GOP took advantage of that, and the Democrats in Congress got blamed for Obama’s weakness. Not surprisingly, Wall Street got the toothless reform it was after.

The American People wanted Wall Street’s collective head on a plate for causing the hardhship they faced. And they wanted its good friend China, new home of millions of American jobs, to get it too. But Obama instead doffed his cap and paid Hoover-like fealty to his supposed masters and let Chinese leaders obfuscate their clear-cut currency manipulation, thinking that he could finesse a result out of it. Everyone instinctively knows you can’t out-finesse Beijing. Obama got played, and the American people got stiffed yet again.

Then there’s the issue of Obama’s deliberate approach. Taking stock is a crock. Leadership is about being decisive. And the defining moment in Obama displaying the diametrical opposite was his pathetic approach to the War in Afghanistan. He took months to state a position which was so ill-defined and poorly thought-out in every respect as to be laughable. It was clearly a product of hesitation and fear, adding to the building sense about the President that he lacked guts at just about every turn. A true leader would have stood up and said in a matter of days, this is what we’re going to do, and I don’t give a rats ass what you think. Americans are funny. Even people who hated his decision would have respected the man, and over time would have given him the benefit of the doubt. He simply didn’t understand what leadership means.

In his press conference today, Obama glumly pondered that perhaps he was too often holed up in the White House. Damn straight he was. The guy was great on the road in ’08, he should have been out there, talking to the American people about their economic problems for weeks on end. I wrote a year ago that he should have dumped the White House entirely, avoided Washington, lived out of Air Force One and visited city after city touring the country and listening to the people. The people would have loved him for it.  He’s the President. He has a Blackberry. He can do business anywhere. But he didn’t. No imagination. No leadership.

And so here we are, looking at two years of gridlock, and a badly weakened administration that began with such hope and could be destined for absolute failure. The only consolation is that the Republican Party’s success foreshadows its demise. It’s utterly bankrupt, and can only win with the help of the worst economy since the Depression, wads of cash from anonymous sources, the apathy of the new electorate, and by co-opting a Tea Party movement that spells its own doom, once it gets frustrated and splits into a third party.

Written by coolrebel

November 3, 2010 at 5:35 am

Posted in Washington