Tuesday, February 6, 2007

What else will Bush get away with?

A dirty little secret is being hushed up in America’s court system and no one in the country seems to care. The trial of "Scooter" Libby for allegedly leaking the identity of CIA agent, Valerie Plame, whose husband Joseph Wilson just happened to be someone who had publicly questioned the President’s claims relating to the war in Iraq (for the excruciating details check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plame_affair ). So they get back by endangering his wife's life. Well, actually "they" did more than that. "They" endangered the life of a government representative of the country. A crime against the state, I would think. But does anyone care?

Some years ago when Bill Clinton was caught with his pants down – literally! – the American public went all holier-than-thou on the poor guy. I just could not figure out why people were looking to him to be their moral guide all of a sudden. The President is our political leader and a regular human at that. Get your moral examples from someplace else. Maybe even take some responsibility for the moral upbringing of your children and for your own self. Wow! What a unique thought!

Clinton's amorous peccadillo had nothing to do with us, the citizenry of that bastion of freedom - America. We put him there to do a job and he was doing it – his success is a subject of much debate depending on your political leaning or, in my opinion, shortage of general intelligence because I'm a fan – but that was what we should have been focusing on. Come on, people! If we were thrown out of our jobs for the mis-steps (of any nature – so don’t go assuming things about me) of our personal lives, then would we see the injustice of it? Oh, yeah, now let’s see who picketh up the next rock to throw.

By now, all the right wing dimwits are bristling testily and going on about “abuse of office” and lying under oath about “that woman”. Get back into your confessionals! It was mutually consenting whoopee – don’t give me the sexual harassment angle. She was smitten, he was in search of stress relief – you guys do promote free markets don’t you? As for lying about it, give the guy a break. His wife was watching at home. What do you expect? What would you do to avoid given the third degree by the missus? But I digress.

The point in raising Bill Clinton’s Oval office antics was to hold up what is happening in the White House now. I refer to this whole new Libby-do affair (couldn’t resist it). Scooter Libby is being thrown to the wolves to save, so it is rumored, Karl Rove and ultimately the Dark Lord himself. Has anybody given thought to this! Someone speaks out against the President and the administration (I love the way they hide behind that amorphous identity) tells on his wife. Disclosing the identity of a CIA agent!! Shouldn’t that count as treason? What on earth are people thinking when they idly sit by and let this incident go unchallenged at the level of every patriotic individual in the country.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Fortune's Southeast Asia Correspondent - Wake up!

We were surprised to read Mr. Ellis’s article on India in the Sydney Morning Herald dated January 22, 2006. It reads like it was written by a teenager headed for Switzerland but somehow finding himself in India. Mr. Ellis needs to wake up to reality.

India is a poor country with a per capita income scarcely above 500 dollars. Reasons for its poverty are complex ranging from historical circumstance that shaped old-fashioned economic policies until recently, to its social diversity and political structures. While India slowly unshackles itself and celebrates its well-deserved early successes, it remains acutely aware that that the regulatory and infrastructural improvements needed to attain Western world efficiency or equity have only just begun.

In addition to the overall arrogant and flippant tone in writing, we take issue with three specific points made in the article.

First, Mr. Ellis asserts that the rise of world class Indian multinationals such as Mittals and Tatas are “plundering Western markets”. His choice of words is perhaps symptomatic of prevailing interests elsewhere which edify the rise of Western capitalism but get uncomfortable when an honest built-from-the-ground Indian business makes a similar splash on the international scene.

Second, Mr. Ellis laments the quality of airline services, shocked by the difficulty in trying to obtain refunds for cheap airline tickets. Welcome to the world of budget travel Mr. Ellis! The authors of this article have all had similar experiences on budget airlines in many first world countries. On the related issue of too many airlines in India, I suppose Mr. Ellis will have to make up his mind on whether he laments the lack of competition in Indian business or thinks there’s too much of it. Airline congestion and safety standards are a moot question all over the world, and business is responding to market signals. Regulators will too, but unfortunately these things don’t get sequenced in a laboratory like fashion but instead follow an iterative process of seeking out a market equilibrium. His objection to a beer magnate owning an airline also seems misplaced in the current global context; implying that these pilots must certainly be glugging the house beer on duty.

The third point that struck us was his claim that the Indian economic boom is patchy and dangerous. All economic booms are patchy to a certain extent because breaking the malaise of the past involves supporting a few pockets of excellence. With time, the aim and hope is to attain a more inclusive growth experience. The author fails to explain why this economic boom is dangerous -- in keeping with the style of the article which is to assert without substantiation.

As India conscious expat citizens we are keen to engage in insightful debate and discussion on the promise and challenges that lie ahead. Our advice to Mr. Ellis is to refrain from such broad sweeps which begin with a dig at the Indian male anatomy and end at airports, with the kitchen sink thrown in the middle.