Saturday, July 23, 2011

Debt Ceiling Irresponsibility

The looming crisis over the United States federal debt ceiling, which involves the amount of borrowing the United States government is allowed to undertake under the Public Debt Acts and subsequent legislation, is a crisis being perpetrated by the House of Representatives that has the potential to destabilize the global economy and permanently disfigure the credibility of the United States of America.  The Congress should immediately back away from this standoff by passing a resolution immediately raising the debt ceiling to a number that is reasonable for the next several months of federal operation until a final budget can be negotiated that sets the debt ceiling for the next year ahead.

I take further note of the incredibly irresponsible and un-statesmanlike conduct by House Speaker John A. Boehner, whose refusal to answer President Obama's phone calls yesterday is not only unbelievable but irresponsible given how constitutionally close the Speaker is to the President. It is the duty of every elected federal official to treat the office of the President with respect, regardless of policy disputes that may legitimately remain. Boehner's actions should not be condoned and are reminiscent of the breach in protocol by Rep. Joe Wilson who yelled "you lie" while President Obama was addressing a joint session of Congress in 2009.

NY Times: Debt Ceiling Talks Collapse as Boehner Walks Out, July 22, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thoughts on the Awful Carnage in Norway

The people of Norway have just experienced unbelievable carnage. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their relatives and friends at this time of great loss. It now appears that the acts of terrorism are those of a lone right-wing lunatic with anti-Islamic beliefs and domestic in nature, not the work of Islamic terrorist as first believed. That said, violence is violence; terror has no nationality or ideology. An awful day for Norway and peace loving people everywhere.

NY Times: At Least 80 Are Dead in Norway Shooting, July 23, 2011

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Another heavily guarded Karzai aide killed in Afghanistan

J. M. Khan in 2002
A question all politically aware thinking people must ask themselves is what our plan for Afghanistan will and should be going forward. Last month, we saw the brazen attack on the Intercontinental hotel, one of Kabul's nicest and most fortified. Earlier this week, President Hamid Karzai's brother was gunned down at home by his own guard. Today, we get news that one of Karzai's closest aides, Jan Mohammed Khan, was killed a few hours ago.  As outsiders, we cannot know if the money, effort, and blood that the international community has committed to "fixing" or "containing" Afghanistan is actually doing anything close to what we hope or need. However, if we are to use these events as proxies for what is happening in the country, the story may indeed be bleaker than any of us fear to imagine. If Karzai's own brother and top aides are not safe, who in the country is and what has all our investment in creating order out of lawlessness actually done?

NY Times: Karzai Adviser Is Killed at Kabul Home, July 17, 2011

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The United States, China and the Dalai Lama

The risks of running up huge foreign debt as a nation is that your moral compass as a people gets unduly influenced by the magnetic field of money.

NY Times: Dalai Lama and Obama Meet to Talk About Tibet, July 16, 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Thoughts on yet another Mumbai terrorist attack

The citizens of Mumbai have seen this before.  Bombs, Bombay, and terrorism against this big bustling city that just takes it and moves on has become a recurrent theme. While the year 2003 was an especially bad year for explosions in the city, terrorism has hit with alarming frequency and with little or no opposition from India's military or intelligence operation. Just over five years ago to the day, on July 11, more than 1,000 people were killed or injured from seven coordinated bombs in the city. Who can forget the terrorist attacks of the 26th of November, 2008? Surely not Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman of the 2008 attack, who celebrated his birthday today. Did anyone in the intelligence apparatus of India know it was Kasab's birthday today? Did anyone have even one conversation about whether someone might use the date to plan attack? Did anyone care? Probably not.

So what do we do about all this terror, death and destruction? What can we do? While there is no one answer to solving terrorism, one thing is quite clear: India's government, politicians and public institutions have failed their people. Government is instituted by people to ensure, at a minimum, the common peace.  India's government, with rather striking universality across its many states and cities, has failed to deliver clean water, roads, and air. But those are relative luxuries, it would appear. India has also failed in its basic duty to protect its citizens against attacks, both foreign and domestic. Whether it is a completely failed response to terrorism that happens nearly weekly in the northeast states, or the internationally publicized attacks in Mumbai like those of earlier today, India's politicians are more interested in pointing their many fingers at Pakistan than in trying to make their people safer.

Zaveri Bazar, which has been hit before by terrorist blasts, had no improved infrastructure, no CCTV monitoring, no bomb detection or prevention methods. In fact, with the exception of the haphazard approach taken by hotels in Mumbai, nowhere in the city will you find any coordinated approach implemented by the government to prevent, deter, monitor, or detect the type of terrorism that the city regularly now faces.

The politicians will make bold and impassioned speeches tomorrow. They will point fingers. They will appeal for the public's strength, unity and determination. The next day, they will return to business as usual, as will the amazingly forgiving and tolerant public that elevates these politicians to power every year. Bribes will be paid, favors will be handed out. Scams will be hatched, public tax revenue will be squandered. Yet, sadly, nobody will do anything to make it even a touch less likely that today's attacks won't be the same as tomorrow's ones.

The brave citizens behind the Public Concern for Governance Trust have long advocated for better governance in India. It is time to head their calls. It is indeed time for the people to stand up, not just to the debased humans that perpetrate these acts of violence, but also to the politicians that allow them to continue to feast on an unfettered buffet of terrorist opportunity.