Please Spread the Word: Political Disaster In Motion

By: on 24 Sep 2008

xposted at

What would you say if someone asked you to borrow $2000 dollars or more and give it to Wall Street companies right now, and that if you waited more than a day, the world would end? That is what is happening to taxpayers in the United States- American citizens and otherwise. These are my thoughts in response, which you should note are shifting as events change rapidly and I get more educated on the politics of this. For example, drawing distinctions between "Is there a credit crisis?" and "Why is Congress in political crisis mode now as opposed to a year ago or a year from now" is important. I hadn't thought this through last week, because I wasn't aware that actually, to some extent, the Emperor Looked In The Mirror And Liked What He Saw, in addition to what I had previously written. In other words, despite that the bank collapses were a major warning economically, there is still strong cause for some skepticism about the politics of it all and the notion of "crisis" ;)

Tidbit: It's Election Season...In The Maldives

By: on 24 Sep 2008

The Maldives are one of those South Asian countries that are not just neglected, but completely forgotten.  I'm pretty certain that if one did a poll of South Asian Americans like me and asked them to list the countries in South Asia, the results would be, um, underwhelming.

As such, I don't know enough to write about the elections in the Maldives on the 8th of October.  That's the first round, according to a source from the Maldives; if no one gets over 50% it moves to the second round.

The Emperor Finds a Mirror, and is finally worried

By: on 19 Sep 2008

I remember when the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed in 1999, eliminating the divisions between the banking and insurance industries and other regulation of the financial sector. The New York Times front page had this picture.

The picture features Bill Clinton sitting at a wooden table, smiling and laughing, as he put his imprimatur on the bill. Surrounding him are a crowd of gray or balding old men, smiling and laughing, as they collectively sign away the regulations on the market.  Had I been better educated at that point (i.e. not from an elite university in the U.S. ;), I would have been able to put words to my feeling of, let's say, discomfort. You might consider this an emblematic moment at which the balance of the pro-rich, pro-corporate policies was moving away from pro-market- a very useful distinction that political scientist Atul Kohli has drawn in discussing the last 25 years of politics in India (pdf).

Flash forward to today.  Politico reports that the people in power have had a Very Serious Meeting. For the interests of those who are interested in the stability of 'the market' (henceforward known simply as 'capitalism' or 'the established order'), this is a Very Serious Meeting that should have been held a Very Long Time Ago. Like, say, the summer of 2007 when the people in power were too busy blaming poor people subjected to predatory mortgage policies and not a policy regime over many years that fostered high risk, low regulation investments on a massive scale, frequently on margin, and not just on mortgages. A good example is the Yen Carry Trade:

But what is the yen carry trade? Put simply, it is borrowing at low interest rates in yen and using the loan to buy higher yielding assets elsewhere. During the past decade, the trade has become a “staple” for many investors, says William Pesek Jr on Bloomberg. Perhaps the most popular form of the strategy exploits the gap between US and Japanese yields. Anyone borrowing for next to nothing in yen and putting the money into US Treasuries (US government bonds) has received a double pay-off: from an interest rate difference of more than three percentage points and from the dollar’s rise against the yen. Investors make their profit when they reverse the trade and pay back the yen loan.

In other words, large amounts of money borrowed on credit for the purposes of speculation.

But, like the picture described above, I thought that a paragraph in the Politico article was precious in how many different things it says about what's wrong with the world today. I take this as a sign that things are about to change, potentially drastically (a good rule of thumb for me is that if you read it in a newspaper and notice it, it's probably already happened, though I'm working on trying to get ahead of the curve ;)).

Here's the money paragraph:

“This is a very serious moment, very serious. It was a very sober gathering.” said Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D- Conn.). “I’ve been in the Senate for 28 years; Congress 34. There has never been a moment as serious as this one.”

What are all the things this tells us?

Tis The Season: Terrible Articles About India, Part (n+1)

By: on 24 Aug 2008

The article on India currently up on Open Democracy right now is absolutely terrible.

How Do You Spell A$$hole? J-I-N-D-A-L

By: on 21 Aug 2008


An anti-discrimination order put in place by former Governor Kathleen Blanco won't be renewed by Governor Bobby Jindal.


The order prohibited various sorts of harassment and discrimination at all state offices, including discrimination by race, sexual orientation and political affiliation. It expires Friday.

Six Days in July

By: on 26 Jul 2008

At this time 25 years ago, Sri Lanka burned for six days in July in anti-Tamil pogroms. More than 3000 people were killed, one hundred thousand displaced, and 18,000 businesses destroyed. All for being suspected of being Tamil. The UNP government of then Executive President, J.R. Jayawardene, disingenuously claimed that the riots were a result of an ambush of 13 Sri Lankan soldiers in the north (a mission later claimed by the LTTE) that enraged 'the Sinhala masses' who were provoked into wholly 'spontaneous' acts of violence. Eyewitnesses testified otherwise, recalling local thugs who stalked their streets wielding machetes in one hand, and in the other, official voters lists to identify Tamil homes and businesses. Many of these survivors were saved by their Sinhala and Muslim neighbors, drivers, partners, friends. They waited, hiding in dark cellars and closets while their streets burned.

As the flames rose, whole families were consumed, their homes reduced to ash and rubble, their children, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents lined up and shot, beaten, or covered in petrol and burned alive. Tamil political prisoners were killed by other prisoners with the aid of their guards. Over the next two decades, if they had the means or the contacts, what remained of these families was scattered to the far corners of the earth by an unwinnable war; a war waged by politicos with a love for power and a hatred aimed at anyone who would stand in the way. The targets were not only Tamils, but the journalists, poets, academics and activists of all communities who dared to speak truth to that power, regardless of who claimed it and to what end.

But even if "politics is the continuation of war by other means" in the continuing transformation of Sri Lanka from welfare to warfare state, those black days in July marked a turning point. Not in any simple, quantifiable sense of "more" or "real" violence, for to say that makes violence a very specific kind of object, it trivializes the lives of those who suffered through and continue to endure everyday discrimination and social and economic injustice, past riots (in 1956, 1958, 1977, 1981), disenfranchisement (in 1948-9 of the Indian Tamils, as well as other migrants from India/Pakistan) expulsion (of Muslims from Jaffna in 1990), and the ongoing war (1983-1985, 1987-1995, 1995-2002, 2006-present). Black July changed the social and political landscape of Sri Lanka; it led the country down a war path that has inflicted suffering and hardship on people from all communities. For many Tamils, the extraordinary events of July '83 crystallized into an experience that told them, once and for all, that they did not belong in the only home most of them had ever known. How? By showing them that they could be killed, simply for being themselves. For being a Tamil; or being mistaken for one; for being married to one; or being forced to pass as Sinhala, Muslim or Burgher. But also, by making everyone realize that they, too, could be complicit in violence against their own people when, instead of standing up to denounce violence against another, they stayed quiet to save their own skin, or spoke in the perpetrator's tongue to deflect a pointed finger.

Hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans, mostly Tamils, left the country; their deep shame masked by the guilt of having left, they sent money to support their families and oftentimes, paradoxically, the war that drove them out in the first place. The pogroms steered youth towards armed struggle as a means of redress; finding no way out in politics or peaceful protest, they sought refuge in militant movements. But violence begat more violence, within and among these groups as they sought to eliminate one another, giving rise to the LTTE, a group that many Tamils tenaciously cling to as their 'one and only hope' and defense again state violence. And so, violence begets more violence.

Action Alert: South Asian Language Interpreters Needed For American Workers (Updated)

By: on 23 Jul 2008

You may remember a brief, previous post on the Indian and Gulf Indian workers were trafficked into the U.S. to assist in rebuilding the areas damaged by Hurricane Katrina, denied their rights broadly, abused, in at least one case driven to attempted suicide, and eventually forced to go on hunger strike, etc. A request from the YSS list for Telegu interpreters to help them in their work with Southern Poverty Law Center (please contact them directly at the number below...just passing on the news).

An Infomercial For Stupidity

By: on 23 Jul 2008

From "Why India Will Beat China" at Business Week (currently the Most Read article!):

But even if the hare is running into obstacles of its own design, how will it give India the competitive edge? The advantage comes in the form of an entrenched and vibrant democracy that will ultimately drive India to outperform China socially and economically.

This Week in Spain: Liberal Humanism Meets Its Logical Conclusion!

By: on 14 Jul 2008

Exhibit A:

...a new European Union proposal aimed at tackling illegal immigration.

The proposal has already caused concern in Africa for criminalising immigrants and building a wall around Europe.

Exhibit B:

Spain is to become the first country to extend legal rights to apes, wrongfooting animal rights activists who have long campaigned against bullfighting in the country.

In wha

Does This Look Like A Good Idea To You?

By: on 9 Jul 2008

If not, maybe it's time to reevaluate the domestic political "wisdom" of the India-US nuclear deal, because there's nothing worse than bringing down your government over something that struts and frets its hour upon the stage and then is heard from no more.

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